Last Sunday, news broke of a very rare discovery. On Kiawah Island, a beach in South Carolina, volunteers encountered a rare white baby sea turtle.
The volunteers had been at the beach inspecting the local sea turtle nests when they stumbled upon the baby turtle in the sand.
The news was immediately posted to Facebook, with a caption that said, “This morning, our Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol #kitp , [sic] Zone 8, inventoried the last nest on the island. #338. You can imagine the excited ‘oohs’ and the ‘aah’s’ from the guests, including some @collegeofcharleston students, when the patroller found a lone, leucistic hatchling in the nest. (Leucism is a condition where animals have reduced pigmentation.)”
The post went on to clarify that the little baby is thought to be living with leucism, a genetic condition that results in a reduction of pigmentation. They further explained that leucism differs from albinism because albino animals have a complete pigmentation loss. This ends up leaving them fully white in color, along with either red or pink eyes.
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A sea turtle conservation group called The Olive Ridley Project noted that while leucism is quite a rare condition, the exact occurrence of the condition in wild sea turtles is not known. The conservation group further added that because of their coloring, sea turtles who are born with this condition have lower chances of survival because they don’t have their natural occurring camouflage.
The Olive Ridley Project stated that leucism is an abnormal genetic defect that only makes these sea turtle hatchlings that much easier to spot on the sand.
They are quite visible to other predators, which might account for why not much is known about how many of these turtles are born with the genetic anomaly, or how many survive to old age with it.
According to ABC15 News, Kiawah Island’s turtle season goes from May 1st until the 31st of October. And last year in 2019, the state of South Carolina experienced a record-breaking year with 8,802 nests being recorded.
There are four different turtle species that make their home on the beaches of South Carolina, and those are the loggerheads, greens, Kemp’s ridleys, and leatherbacks. According to a marine turtle conservation program called SCDNR, all four of the turtle species are currently listed as either endangered or threatened. This means they’re protected under the Endangered Species Act.
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