Volunteers in South Carolina checking on sea turtles on Sunday made a surprise discovery when they came across a rare white sea turtle hatchling.
The town of Kiawah Island shared on Facebook that the Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol came across the lone white baby sea turtle crawling across the sand.
“You can imagine the excited ‘oohs’ and the ‘aah’s’ from the guests, including some College of Charleston students, when the patroller found a lone, leucistic hatchling in the nest,” the town said.
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The hatchling is believed to have a genetic condition called leucism, which causes animals to have reduced pigmentation.
“Leucism is different from albinism as albino animals have a complete loss of pigment, leaving them completely white with red or pink eyes,” the town said.
Sea turtles with leucism have black eyes and a small amount of pigment on their skin.
Photos released by the town show the tiny turtle that appears a creamy white color rather than the more typical gray or green of a sea turtle.
The condition is described as extremely rare, but it’s unclear exactly how often such turtles are found in the wild.
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The Olive Ridley Project, a sea turtle conservation group, states that sea turtles with leucism typically have a hard time surviving because of a lack of camouflage.
Sea turtles typically spend their first few months hiding under patches of seaweed in the ocean, growing as fast as possible because the larger they are, the fewer predators they have.
“Camouflage is important to all animals, particularly very small sea turtle hatchlings that are predated on by almost everything,” the group states. “So, to be born white makes you stand out and very visible to predators.”
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