By Chris Ciaccia
Published February 18, 2019
Pictures of a rare albino baby turtle have surfaced, exciting onlookers and marine life enthusiasts alike.
However, this tiny reptile, known as Hope, has one big distinction from most other albino turtles – its beating heart is outside of its body.
Hope's owner, Mike Aquilina, said that he looks after the tiny turtle at his home in New Jersey, after getting her from a breeder friend.
"Hope has impacted my life in so many ways it actually makes me emotional," Aquilina said in comments obtained by the Daily Mail. "She's so small and so fragile, the most delicate thing but she's fearless."
"People can see that and she's got so many people rooting for her around the world," the 29-year-old Aquilina continued. "She's spreading hope while also giving me hope. Hope has changed my life for the better in such a short amount of time."
The condition has not yet been given a name in veterinary medicine, though a similar condition, known as ectopia cordis, affects humans. It is seen in one in 126,000 births, according to Health Line.
Although its cause is not precisely known, it's thought it may be caused by chromosomal abnormalities, intrauterine drug exposure or the rupturing of a fetal membrane or yolk sac.
Though most fetuses with the condition are stillborn (in rare cases, some babies survive the first few days and in one extremely rare instance, the condition was fixed in utero), Hope is functioning. But Aquilina said that he is using "common sense" and providing extra care for her, including keeping her water "extra clean," and handling her as little as possible.
"I've gone for the more natural approach as to a completely sterile one," he said. The goal is to keep her deformity clean and her immune system strong. I can't risk another turtle accidentally puncturing her heart cavity."
He added that she may be exposed to other turtles when she is less susceptible to infection, but "[f]or now, she's got to live in a bit of a bubble."
Her food and medical supplies are provided, which allows Hope to swim about and enjoy her life, Aquilina said, adding that there are no current plans to correct the issue.