Volunteers checking sea turtle nests on a South Carolina beach came upon a rare sight: a white sea turtle hatchling crawling across the sand.
The town of Kiawah Island posted on its Facebook page that the Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol found a lone white baby sea turtle on Sunday.
“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,” the town shared in the post.
Photos show a tiny turtle that’s a creamy white color rather than the more typical gray or green of a sea turtle.
The town says 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,” it said in the post.
The condition is described as extremely rare, but it’s unclear exactly how often such turtles are found in the wild.
“It was a first for everyone in attendance!” the town said.
The Olive Ridley Project, a sea turtle conservation group, says sea turtles with leucism typically have a hard time surviving because of a lack of camouflage.
According to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, loggerhead turtles are typically “reddish brown” in color.
Their eggs hatch below the surface on beaches. Hatchlings will then dig themselves out before heading toward the water.
Researchers told The Island Packet they let the newborn white turtle crawl to the ocean and watched as it “swam away in the surf.”
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