Australia’s wildlife experts are stumped with the discovery of a new type of (possibly hybrid) turtle found inside of a crab fishing pot off of the country’s coast.
The turtle appears to be a hybrid between two different species, a hawksbill and a green turtle, and it’s believed to be the first time Australia has any kind of documented case of such a hybrid turtle existing in the area.
The animal was transported to Reef HQ turtle hospital where it was screened for any possible health issues, and fishing hooks were removed from its jaws.
Researchers believe it’s a hybrid turtle of some sort because it has a mix between three and four post-ocular scales behind its eyes. One side of the head has three, while the other side of the head has four.
As explained by Hamish Tristram, a senior aquarist at Reef HQ, green turtles typically have four of these post-ocular scales, while hawksbills typically have three. The mix is a peculiar trait of this specimen.
“This turtle is quite unique looking and it certainly isn’t like any of the others we’ve had come into the turtle hospital over the 27-odd years that we’ve been open,” said Tristram. “The post-ocular scales that go behind the eyes – generally the green turtle has four and the hawksbill has three. This particular animal has three on one side and four on the other so it has an intermediate (trait) or has features of both.”
It’s not 100% confirmed yet that the turtle is a hybrid between the two species, but further genetic testing may provide the true answer of where it originated from. It’s possible that it could just be a birth defect that luckily provided it with the abnormal post-ocular scale count.
After the DNA tests are done, the turtle will return to the sea to resume its wild lifestyle. If it is a hybrid, one thing is for sure, it’ll be the first ever known hybrid turtle in Australia.
Source: Australian Geographic