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 that made its way to a public accessible beach.
Photos show a tiny turtle that is a creamy white color rather than the more typical gray or green of a sea turtle – or reddish brown in the case that this is a loggerhead turtle.
Officials say the hatchling may have been born with a genetic condition called leucism, which causes a reduction in pigment.
‘Leucism is different from albinism, as albino animals have a complete loss of pigment, leaving them completely white with red or pink eyes,’ town officials posted.
The condition is described as extremely rare, but it is not clear exactly how often such turtles are found in the wild.
Although it may appear similar to albinism, leucism does not leave creatures with red or pink eyes.
Town officials also shared that this is an abnormal genetic defect and no a useful one.
‘Camouflage is important to all animals, particularly very small sea turtle hatchlings that are predated on by almost everything,’ reads a Facebook post.
‘So, to be born white makes you stand out and very visible to predators.’
Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings are typically two inches long, but can grow up to 3.5 feet and weigh more than 375 pounds as adults.
Females lay eggs under the sand and when the hatchlings break from their shells, they make the journey to the ocean.
Nesting occurs on Kiawah Island from May 1 to October 31, with 80 percent hatching by September.
The rare white hatchling is said to came from a nest on Beachwalker Park and trekked onto the beach where there is public access, which is how it was first spotted, the Charlotte Observer reports.