Rare Turtle Spotted for Only Second Time, Looks Like Melted Cheese

Doug Williams
Credit: Debashish Sharma
Credit: Debashish Sharma

Plenty of modern abstract artists become famous for their vivid use of bright colours, like Jackson Pollock, whose works are sometimes nothing more than bright blobs in a variety of shades, seemingly dripped randomly on canvass.

It is the use of colour itself that expresses art, rather than an image reproducing a shape, say a building or a vase of flowers. It is what modern art is all about – colour without shape.

There may be no better modern artist than Mother Nature, metaphorically speaking, who has at her disposal a limitless box of paints into which she dips some creatures, great and small, making them striking to look at and curious to behold.

Consider the blue dart frog, a remarkable amphibian that has a body bluer than the most azure sea. Or the red panda, whose fire-engine red body makes it look more like a Raggedy Anne doll than the cuddly black and white bear we associate with its name.

Or a certain type of sloth, whose back is often lime green, because it plays host to a lichen moss of that distinct shade.

Yes, Mother Nature rivals any modern painter when it comes to colour and vibrancy.

Even species not traditionally known for their colours are, on occasion, marked by an unusual hue. That is the case with a turtle found in late October in West Bengal, India, an Indian flapshell turtle that is usually a rather bland shade of green.

This little guy, however, saved from a pond and turned over to wildlife rescuers, is a most startling shade of yellow, akin more to the colour of an egg yolk than the green his “parents” are. Experts say he is likely albino, as his eyes are pink, and that’s a characteristic tip off.

The condition is caused by a missing pigment, called tyrosine, or perhaps because his “parents” caused a genetic mutation. In all likelihood, says wildlife biologist Sneha Dharwadkar, he is simply missing that pigment, and nothing else at all is wrong with the little guy.

The Indian flapshell turtle usually grows to be about nine to 14 inches in length. They feast on frogs, vegetation found in the ponds where they live, and snails. In those aspects and all others pertaining to the species, the one found this fall is just like his regular-coloured kin.

But he is definitely an aberration, albeit an adorable one, rather the shade of a warning sign in traffic, or a slice of melted American cheese. It’s probably good he was rescued from his natural surroundings, as his vivid colouring might have made him a brightly lit target for predators.

The turtle is indeed rare, experts say, but not the only albino found in recent years.

In Australia, in 2016, a volunteer group that watches over a variety of species came upon an albino turtle in Queensland, on the Sunshine Coast. The group, North Shore Coast Care, spoke to the media at the time; its president, Linda Warneminde said the wee creature was one of 122 hatchlings they were keeping an eye on.

That turtle was odd looking too, Warneminde said, but was obviously hale and hearty, just pure white.

“He wasn’t sick,” she confirmed, “he was just white. It (the turtle) was very chipper and just took off into the water as happy as can be.”

Flapshell turtles are also found in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar, as well. This is the second yellow one found in India in four years, the last in 2016 in Odisha.

While the strange colouring – or lack of colouring, in the case of albino turtles – may be easily explained by faulty genetic wiring, it is infinitely more fun to imagine Mother Nature at her easel, deciding to create a creature set apart from others of a more drab hue.

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It is random, it is instructive, but most of all, it is wholeheartedly amusing, an example of the wonder found in nature whenever we take the time to look.


fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival