Albino Animals: What Are They and their Interesting Facts

What are albino animals? There would be few sights more unusual to see than a white orangutan, or perhaps a white elephant because you just wouldn’t expect to see them in that colour. But these animals are the rare phenomenon that are known as being albino animals. In fact, they are so unusual that there are many tales in folklore of these strange white animals being omens of good luck and fertility.

Albino Animals

What are Albino Animals

Albino animals are the opposite of melanistic animals, which are black, and are animals that have either produced too little melanin or none at all. Melanin is the pigment that affects the skin, hair, and eyes. The lack of melanin produces an animal that has a white coat and pink skin and eyes. Often, albino animals appear to be pink because of the pink skin underneath the white hair. The pink colour, particularly in the eyes is from the blood vessels that are showing as they are close to the surface of the skin.

Types of Albino Animals

While it is possible for albinism to occur in most species, not every white animal is an albino and only those that have pink eyes are true albinos. White colouring can occur in some animals simply because they have the right colour genetics to cause the white coat.

There are no known records of albino tigers or lions, but there are records of albinism in other big cats such as the leopard (although rarely) and the cheetah.

Compared to the rarity of melanism in animals that live in the water, albinism has been recorded in several different species of whales and dolphins and is also found quite frequently in fish.

List of Albino Animals

There are a number of animals that can be albino and some of them are:

  • Deer
  • Orangutans
  • Giraffes
  • Squirrels
  • Horses
  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Alligators
  • Corn snakes
  • Frogs
  • Toads
  • Lizards
  • Foxes
  • Whales
  • Dolphins

Albino Animals with Facts

  • The word “albino” comes from the Latin word for “white”.
  • Albino animals often have poor eyesight as melanin is vital for the healthy development of the eyes.
  • Sun-loving albino animals often die earlier than their normal coloured counterparts as melanin usually protects the skin from the sun and the lack of it means that albino animals are at a high risk of melanoma (skin cancer).
  • Albino animals can be spotted much more easily by predators.
  • An albino animal that is usually a night hunter is massively disadvantaged as it’s colour makes it stand out in the dark.
  • Albino white-tailed deer are protected in Iowa and it is illegal to shoot them.
  • The feathers on albino birds are much weaker and often break easily.
  • Leucistic animals are animals that have a reduced amount of melanin, but not to the extent of albino animals. Leucistic animals still have a normal coloured nose and eyes, while albino animals have pink noses and eyes.
  • Albinism is a recessive gene and it means that if both parents are albino then their offspring will also be albino.
  • Albino alligators are often eaten by predators before they become adults as they are so easily spotted.
  • It is thought that there has only ever been one albino gorilla in the world – a lowland gorilla who lived in Barcelona Zoo until he developed skin cancer in 2003.
  • White tigers are not albino but are Bengal tigers whose parents both carry a recessive gene that causes the colour mutation, similar to the genetics that cause white lions.
  • There is only one known albino orangutan – a female called Alba. She was released back into the wild in December 2018 after being rehabilitated.
  • In 2015 a pair of albino fox cubs were spotted in London. While albinism in foxes is rare, it is even more rare for two to have been spotted together.
  • It is not known whether albinism exists in wolves.
  • An albino humpback whale first spotted off the coast of Australia in1991 was the first recorded sighting of an albino whale.
  • It is thought that most albino birds that are born in the wild die soon after birth.
  • Albinism is estimated to affect only one in every 10,000 raccoons born.
  • Elephants are one of the rarest albino animals and have sometimes been rejected by their herd because of their different appearance.

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