A rare white sea turtle hatchling was discovered Sunday on a beach in South Carolina, much to the surprise of town officials.
The town of Kiawah Island, located 25 miles from Charleston, said on Facebook that the Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol found the baby sea turtle crawling through the sand.
“You can imagine the excited ‘oohs’ and the ‘aahs’ from the guests, including some College of Charleston students, when the (beach) patroller found a lone, leucistic hatchling in the nest,” the town wrote alongside several photos of the sea turtle hatchling.
According to officials, the sea turtle has leucism, which is a condition that decreases color pigmentation and often makes an animal appear white or spotted.
“Leucism is different from albinism, as albino animals have a complete loss of pigment, leaving them completely white with red or pink eyes,” officials added.
The sea turtle conservation group The Olive Ridley Project reports that sea turtles with leucism are rare due to their low odds of survival in the ocean.
“Leucism is an abnormal genetic defect, and not a useful one,” the group said. “Camouflage is important to all animals, particularly very small sea turtle hatchlings that are predated on by almost everything. So, to be born white makes you stand out and be very visible to predators.”