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Why Are Some Animals Albino? (Answered)

Albino animals are those that lack pigmentation in their skin, fur, or feathers. As a result, they typically have pale skin, white fur or feathers, and pink eyes. While albinism is a genetic condition that can occur in any species of anima. Some animal groups are more prone to it than others.

In this article, we will explore the condition known as albinism in animals and give some examples of albino animals. We will look at the most common to the least common.

Key Takeaways:

  • All kinds of animals can be albino, but the most common are mammals.
  • Some reptiles that are considered albino actually have a condition called leucistic.
  • Colorful birds can also suffer from albinism.
  • There have been wild fish caught that are albino.
  • Albinism is rare in amphibians but it does happen.
  • Even insects and spiders can be albino.

Why Are Some Animals Albino?

Animals that lack color may suffer from a genetic condition that makes them albino. This condition is called albinism.

Albinism presents differently in different kinds of animals. Follow along as we explore why different types of animals are albino.

Mammals

Albinism is a genetic condition that results in a lack of pigment in the skin, eyes, and hair. Albinism is found in all animal species, but it is most common in mammals.

Since it is rare in the wild, an albino animal sighting has been considered sacred by some indigenous peoples. For example, the white buffalo is a sacred symbol to many native tribes of North America.

The white buffalo is rare and the result of albinism. Albino deer also exist. They often have pink eyes and light colored antlers.

There have been reports of albino whales and dolphins. They tend to be pink. A famous albino bottlenose dolphin was named Pinky and lived around Calcasieu Lake, Louisiana.

Migaloo is a famous albino humpback whale that lived off the coast of Australia. There have also been sightings of albino orca. All are albino because of a rare genetic condition.

Some mammals are albino from laboratory breeding. Albino rats are often associated with lab experiments. They are always solid white with pink or red eyes.

Mammals are albino because lack melanin and pigmentation in the skin, fur, and eyes. Albino mammals also suffer from health conditions like blindness, deafness, and other issues.

Reptiles

Albino ball python
Albino ball python image: Pixabay.com

Albino reptiles are different from mammals. They don’t have the same kinds of pigments in their skin so they aren’t going to be solid white.

This is also called leucistic. This means they are not solid white and still have patterns on their scales.

In many cases, albino reptiles are yellow, orange, pink, or a variation of those colors. There are recorded cases of albino alligators, turtles, and snakes.

Reptile albinism is a genetic mutation caused by recessive genes. It can only occur if both parents carry the genes, which is why it’s so rare.

In turtles, for example, only one in several hundred eggs might hatch an albino offspring. Those that do hatch rarely make it to adulthood.

Ball and Burmese pythons with albinism are a desirable pet. They often have similar darker and lighter patterns as their non-albino counterpart, but are yellow or orange with red or orange eyes.

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Birds

Pair of albino peacock
Pair of albino peacock | image by Selena N. B. H. via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Birds with true albinism are very rare in nature. Birds also may lack melanin in their skin while still having color in their feathers.

Albino birds may also have white or transparent claws or talons, and a white beak. Their eyes are often pink or red in color.

There have been examples of albino peacocks and parrots. Birds that you would normally think of as colorful, but instead are solid white with pink eyes.

While albinism is very rare in birds, it does occur. It mostly happens more with breeding in captivity though.

Fish

Albino catfish inside the aquarium
Albino catfish inside the aquarium | image by R/DV/RS via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Even fish can be effected by albinism. There are several instances of wild fish caught with the rare condition. It’s extremely uncommon for an albino fish in the wild to survive to adulthood.

Albino catfish have been reeled in by anglers in the United States. They are extremely rare but they are out there in the lakes and rivers.

There’s even a case of an albino blue marlin hooked off the coast of Costa Rica. The fishermen experienced a once in a lifetime catch with that one.

Goldfish are another example of a fish that can be albino. They can lack pigmentation in some areas or be entirely albino.

Fish bred in captivity are more prone to albinism because of selective breeding and inbreeding. Farmed salmon in Alaska, for example, have more occurrences of albinism than wild salmon.

Amphibians

Albinism in amphibians is extremely rare. The African clawed frog is prone to albinism when bred in captivity to have the mutation.

Another well-known example is the axolotl, which is an aquatic salamander that is often used in research laboratories. They are often albino and pink in color.

Amphibians that are albino generally do not survive in the wild. This is why they are more common in captivity.

Amphibians with albinism often have reduced camouflage and are more susceptible to predators. They may also have problems with their vision.

Invertebrates

Blue crabs
Blue crabs | image by John via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Rare cases of albino lobsters and crabs have been recorded. Blue crabs can suffer from albinism and have no color on their shell.

Shrimp and mayflies can also lack any color and be totally transparent. Although it’s not as common as in mammals, many invertebrates can be albino.

Interestingly, in spiders, being albino can be from a combination of recessive and dominant genes. Spiders with albinism can be yellow or orange in color or they can also be solid white.

Mystery snails can also be albino, especially those bred in captivity. They are incredibly rare in the wild, but are common in fish tanks and ponds.

Conclusion

The genetic condition known as albinism effects all different kinds of animals. Animals are albino because they have a genetic mutation that causes their skin to not produce melanin and colors. Albino animals are rare in the wild and are mostly found in captivity.

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