The unique coloration of the animal is due to an extremely rare genetic form of chromatic leukism.
In Nepal, a golden turtle was discovered, which is compared to the mythological embodiment of the Hindu deity Vishnu. The animal acquired its unique coloration as a result of a very rare genetic mutation that changed its pigmentation.
According to zoologists, this is only the fifth case of the discovery of a golden turtle of the species Lissemys punctata andersoni and the first in Nepal.
Kamal Devkota, a reptile expert who documented the find, said the animal has a deep spiritual meaning.
“Not only golden animals, but turtles in general have significant religious and cultural value in Nepal. In Hindu mythology, the upper shell of a turtle denotes the sky, and the lower one, the earth,”.Kamal Devkota
In Hinduism, the god Vishnu took the form of a turtle and descended to the bottom of the mythological Milky Ocean to save the values that were lost during the flood. This is the second avatar – the incarnation – of Vishnu of ten, known as Kurma. This god in the form of a golden turtle is worshiped in many temples in India.
The golden turtle owes its remarkable color to chromatic leucism, a condition characterized by the loss of color pigmentation. Leukism usually results in white, pale or mottled coloration, but in the case of the Nepal tortoise, xanthophora – cells rich in yellow pigments – became dominant.
After the turtle was documented, it was released into the wild, although it will be more difficult to survive than other turtles. The common green Lissemys punctata is much better masked in turbid aquatic environments.
The turtle was found in Dhanushadham municipality, part of Dhanusha district in Nepal.