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A Rare Yellow Turtle That Looks Like Melted Cheese is Going Viral

This is the second time in three months that the Indian Forest Service has announced the discovery of the yellow turtle.
yellow turtle
Photo courtesy of Debashish Sharma (@deva_iitkgp) via Twitter

Some think it looks like a slice of melty cheese on a hamburger patty. Some think the glossy creature looks like egg yolk, some compared it to Super Mario’s Koopa, while the less imaginative think it looks like just yellow paint. But this zesty creature with its vivid yellow shell has become an internet sensation.

This is actually a bright yellow version of the Indian flapshell turtle (Lissemys punctata). While the flapshell turtle is commonly found in South Asian countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar, its yellow variant is super rare. But suddenly, it’s been spotted for the second time in two months. 


“Today a Yellow Turtle was rescued from a pond in Burdwan,” tweeted Indian Forest Service worker Debashish Sharma on November 3 about the find from the eastern Indian state of West Bengal. “It’s one kind of a rarely [occurring] Flapshell Turtle.”

Though there isn’t much information available on the most recent findings, the phenomenon is being considered to be caused by a lack of body pigmentation. It is being said that it is very similar to pure albinism, a genetic disorder that causes a lack of pigments in the body. This is called chromatic leucism, and researchers say that among turtles it can produce the most “dazzling” colour variants. They also describe this phenomenon as “relatively uncommon”.

“This is my first encounter with this unusual color of turtle,” reptile expert Kamal Devkota, who documented the find, told Zuma Press.

Such aberrations are rare but this phenomenon happens to be more common than many of us recognise. Creatures like these have been discovered plenty of times over the years in various parts of South Asia, a place where it is one of the most common aquatic turtle species. These yellow variants of the Indian flapshell turtle are typically brown with yellow spots and creamy white underside. Buthis cheesy-looking- genetic anomaly stands out because it doesn't happen often. 

A few months ago, a golden turtle was discovered in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, and a wildlife biologist claimed to have found three such individuals the year before. 


In 1997, a very similar incident happened when a turtle with a yellow body and pink eyes was discovered in Gujarat. Recently, a golden flapshell was found in Nepal and a paper was published too on its discovery. 

Earlier this year, in July, when the first yellow turtle of the year went viral, herpetologists in India claimed that if the pigment makes it through, it might result in a ruby-coloured turtles too. This one was spotted by a farmer working in his fields.

Researchers also claim that such phenomena might be cherished and made viral but lack of your normal colouration can be quite an impediment when it comes to nature. Said Devkota, “Colour aberrations are quite rare in nature because the affected individuals may be disadvantaged in their environment.”.

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