Most people have seen albino tigers, rabbits and alligators in photos or at the zoo, but the inherited condition that causes albinism can be present in most any species.
Defined as, “Congenital absence of any pigmentation or coloration in a person, animal, or plant, resulting in white hair and pink eyes in mammals,” albinism occurs when a plant or animal is born with two recessive genes causing a complete lack of pigment-producing malanin, resulting in white skin and fur.
Albino animals often have pink eyes since the lack of pigment makes the blood vessels in the iris visible. Not all white animals are albino, however. Some are naturally white in color, while others inherit other conditions such as leucism, the absence of pigment over most of the body with the exception of they eyes. Many of these animals have a pigment-cell disorder rather than a lack of melanin.
Regardless of the biological condition, albino and similar animals are striking in appearance, a condition that can make survival in the wild difficult. They also generally have poor eye sight. Albinism occurs just once in every 10,000 mammal births, and, while still rare, is more common among many species of birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles. Of course albino animals are even rarer among adult animals because of their reduced survivability.
Check out the slideshow to see 10 breathtaking freaks of nature.
It is thought that albino squirrels are the only mammal albino specimen that are able to successfully survive in the wild, in large part because the unusual makeup of squirrels’ eyes results in relatively minor disruptions to albino squirrels’ vision.
The incidence of albinism among fish may be increased by exposing their eggs to heavy metals.
Because birds owe their pigment to a variety of different melanins, albinism can occur in varying degrees among them, ranging from total albinism to incomplete, imperfect and partial albinism.
Lobsters can occur in a variety of different patterns and hues, but the white lobster is by far the rarest in the world.
The glorious plumes of a peacock are already a wondrous sight, but an albino peacock is nothing short of breathtaking.
Albino deer lack camouflage necessary for survival in the wild. This fawn, unfortunately, has little chance of surviving to an adult.
White arachnids are generally referred to as “depigmented” and most often occur among cave populations.
While this cardinal is not a true albino, the absence of pigment in most of its feathers might actually help it survive in the winter.
Unlike this turtle, most white reptiles are not true albinos as they often retain pale yellow, orange or red pigments.
Albino marine mammals have a particularly difficult time with survival as the lack of pigment often causes them to experience reduced heat absorption in colder waters, poor camouflage from predators, increased sensitivity to sunlight, and impaired visual communication.
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