A turtle born with a rare genetic mutation that caused it to have a golden shell has been hailed as an incarnation of a god.

The creature was found in a village in Nepal and has been identified as an Indian flapshell turtle by the Mithila Wildlife Trust.

Kamal Devkota, a reptile expert, documented the find and said that it has spiritual significance.

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He said: “Not only golden animals, but turtles overall have significant religious and cultural value in Nepal.

“It is believed that Lord Vishnu [one of the most prominent of the Hindu gods] took the form of a turtle to save the universe from destruction in his incarnation.

“In Hindu mythology the upper shell of the turtle denotes the sky and lower shell denotes earth.”

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Vishnu’s embodiment as a turtle is known as Kurma and is worshipped in temples throughout India.

The condition that gives the turtle its dazzling shell is called chromatic leucism. When animals have this, it causes a loss of colour pigmentation.

Leucism usually affects the skin, making it white, pale or patchy in colour. But in the turtle’s case it has lead to xanthophores becoming dominant – or cells that have lots of yellow pigments.

Mr Devkota, from the Nepal Toxinology Association, said: “This is my first encounter with this unusual colour of turtle.

“This is the first record in Nepal of chromatic leucism in this turtle, Lissemys punctata andersoni, and only the fifth in the species worldwide. So, we can say that this is one unusual discovery!”

After it was documented by researchers, and of course, after they took lots of photos of it, the turtle was released back into the wild. But unfortunately, it’s not all plain sailing for the little fella from here. In fact, he may find it more difficult to survive than other turtles.

Mr Devkota explained: “Colour aberrations are quite rare in nature because the affected individuals may be disadvantaged in their environment.

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“For instance, a normal Lissemys punctata is much better camouflaged in the murky, greenish, aqueous environment the species frequents.

“Genetically driven conditions such as chromatic leucism would be exposed to intense negative selective pressure in nature. But such aberrant animals are highly valued in the pet trade.”

The turtle was originally found in Dhanushadham Municipality, which is part of Nepal’s Dhanusha District, in the south-eastern part of the country.

Featured Image Credit: Pen News

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