This Baby Albino Turtle Was Born With Her Heart Beating Outside Of Her Shell—And She’s Thriving

A tough little turtle named Hope is giving new meaning to the phrase “turtle power.”

The albino pinkbelly sideneck turtle hatched last fall with her heart outside of her body. Now she’s a social-media celebrity with her own line of clothing.

Hope’s heart seems to function well — it’s easy to see it pumping away in her owner’s Instagram posts. The trouble is there’s just a thin layer of skin covering it instead of the harder tissue of the plastron, the underside of the shell.

Mike Aquilina, known on Instagram as @aquamike23, acquired Hope from another turtle owner who thought Aquilina could take good care of the tiny turtle. She journeyed from her birthplace in Florida to Aquilina’s New Jersey home, where he started documenting her life. Here’s a post from him wishing hope to all in the New Year:

For now, Hope lives separately from Aquilina’s other animals. He worries that another turtle might accidentally rupture her exposed heart, or introduce an infection.

“The goal is to keep her deformity clean and her immune system strong,” Aquilina told the Daily Mail.

Hope’s assembled a legion of human fans on Instagram. She’s a feisty thing — many of Aquilina’s posts show Hope crawling and swimming about.

“She seems really lively,” Aquilina wrote in one of his first posts after Hope arrived. “[She] acts as though nothing’s wrong.”

Hope’s favorite activities include eating, swimming and basking on an algae-covered hunk of driftwood in her tank. Did I mention eating? Aquilina’s videos often feature Hope happily munching away, and one post celebrated her weight gain from January to February.

This post shows how she knows her feeding routine so well that she comes looking for a bite from Aquilina:

As Hope’s following grows, Aquilina’s posts about the spunky gal snag tens of thousands of views and likes. She’s got a lot of folks rooting for her, but Aquilina is still her number-one fan.

“[I] never thought about how in a few months’ time this animal would come to change my life and give me the ability to impact so many lives with her story,” he wrote yesterday. “So long as your heart is beating, have hope and spread hope to those around you!”

Well said!