LOOK: This Rare Leucistic Green Sea Turtle Is Equal Parts Bizarre & Beautiful

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: Stephen Frink

We love when nature treats us to something purely magical. Recently, we were surprised with a stunning snap of a rare Leucistic Green Sea Turtle posted by the Twitter account, ‘Nature is Lit.’ However, the abnormal green sea turtle couldn’t be further from green— in fact, it’s an all-white turtle. However, it’s not albino.

According to wildlife experts, albinism and Leucism are two genetic deviations that ultimately differ. The result of both is a shockingly white creature lacking the normal coloration of its species. To the uninitiated eye, animals with these conditions appear to display very similar characteristics.

Reports suggest Leucism is characterized by reduced pigmentation. However, unlike albinos, most leucistic beings have normal-colored eyes. This defect causes cells to develop improperly, which makes them unable to produce pigments.

However, cell leucism can present in different ways. For example, if not every cell is defective, the animals will show patches of discoloration, a phenomenon known as the “pied” or the “piebald” effect.

If all the cells break down, it will cause a reduction in all types of pigment, creating an all-white animal. Because of this, people often mistake this type of leucism for albinism.

As unique as these animals are, it’s a tragic fact that they rarely survive in nature. For most animals, camouflage is essential in evading predators, especially when they’re young.

White sea turtles sadly not expected to live long due to their rare condition

Sadly, animals displaying traits of Albinism or Leusicms lack the natural patterns that disguise and conceal them from predators or help them attract mates. In addition, experts estimate that just 1 in 1,000 green sea turtles will become full-grown. They are also considered endangered worldwide due to habitat loss, egg harvesting, pollution, and entanglements in fishing gear.

In August, the Cape Hatteras National Park Service in North Carolina announced on Instagram that biologists discovered a leucistic loggerhead sea turtle at the bottom of a sea turtle nest chamber.

The NPS biologist revealed that the healthy hatchling made its way into the Atlantic Ocean. The turtle has some pigmentation, and its eyes were brown rather than red, which is often seen in albino animals. According to experts, albino reptiles have pink eyes and lack melanin.

The officials discovered the unique turtles on July 27, with the first sea turtle hatchings occurring on July 23. The leucistic sea turtle finding is rare but not uncommon, as the NPS finds a few sea turtles with leucism almost yearly.

In September, another video of this phenomenon when viral when it featured rare white sea turtles hatching in South Carolina.

The video, posted by Folly Beach Turtle Watch Program, shows the turtles hatching with a tiny white turtle.

The Watch Program shared an explanation with the video: “We think this may be an example of leucism, a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation. Unlike albinos, most leucistic animals have normally colored eyes. Loggerhead hatchlings are typically a very dark brown or gray color. This dark coloration acts to camouflage them among the Sargassum weed of the open ocean currents, their home for the first three to seven years of life.”