An albino gorilla named Snowflake passed away in 2003, but he’s still making waves as the center of a new study.
You can get a full report, including a cool video, by clicking right here. But the short version is that the beloved albino gorilla Snowflake, a star of the Barcelona Zoo in Spain, was a product of inbreeding.
His entire genome has now been sequenced and the white color has been traced to a single gene. His parents were likely an uncle and a niece, so that the beautiful coloring was a result of inbreeding.
The genetic mutation didn’t seem to harm Snowflake, who lived for 40 years.
However, the development of some albino animals has sparked controversy. White tigers have proved so profitable for the zoos that lease them that the problem of inbreeding has been accused of threatening the survival of the natural form of some endangered tiger populations.
Other white animals have actually been discovered in nature, like the 1980s find in Louisiana of a large brood of white alligators. Fearing that the animals could not survive in the wild, a man brought them to the New Orleans Audubon Institute.
The hugely popular animals have thrived in captivity. Living specimens are still on display in New Orleans while others travel the globe to attract the amazement of onlookers.
By the way, not all white animals are true albinos. An albino has lost the ability to produce melanin. Its eyes are often red because you can see the blood vessels within.
Leucistic animals lack the ability to form pigment in skin, feathers, hair, or scale cells but still have normal pigment in the eyes. The famous New Orleans, Louisiana white alligators are considered leucistic.
With that said, in honor of the albino gorilla, let’s take a quick photo roundup of other beautiful albino and leucistic animals.
New Orleans Audubon Institute White Alligator
The Controversial “Royal” White Tigers
While they’re not a true species but instead a product of inbreeding designed to create the highly profitable creatures, not many people can resist a beautiful white tiger.
White lions are also a product of inbreeding and have added to the white big cat breeding debate.
A personal favorite is the well-established white peacock mutation.
As you can see, albino and leucistic animals can appear in a wide range of species including reptiles and birds as well as mammals. Are you sure that albino gorilla Snowflake is still your favorite?
[white peacock photo by Tangopaso via Wikimedia Commons]
[white lion cub by Gary Whyte via Wikimedia Commons]
[white tiger, white alligator photos by Elaine Radford]
[albino gorilla photos via Barcelona Zoo]