Albino Gorilla Mystery Solved: Snowflake Was Inbred, Says Researchers

The mystery of the albino gorilla has been solved. A new study claims that Snowflake got his white coloring due to inbreeding.

Snowflake, an albino gorilla that lived at the Barcelona Zoo for 40 years, was born in Equatorial Guinea. He was captured in 1966 by villagers and brought to the zoo in Spain. Snowflake is the only known gorilla to have white hair and now scientists believe that they know why: Inbreeding.

According to a new report, Snowflake was probably the offspring of an uncle and a niece.

Discovery News reports that researchers from Institut de Biologia Evolutiva at the University of Pompeu Fabra sequenced Snowflake’s entire genome and found that the gorilla’s albinism could be traced to the gene single SLC45A2. They also found that 12% of the genes passed from Snowflake’s parents were identical. The researchers concluded that the albino gorilla was most likely the result of an uncle and a niece mating.

Snowflake is the only known albino gorilla but lead researcher Tomas Marques-Bonet said that more could be discovered in the future. Marques-Bonet said that deforestation could limit mating options in the future and gorilla’s may turn to inbreeding.

Marques-Bonet said: “If we are reducing much more the space that they have now, it is more likely that they will be forced to stay in the group and that will increase the consanguinity.”

Snowflake lived for 40 years at the Barcelona Zoo. The albino gorilla passed away in 2003 from skin cancer.

[Image Via Barcelona Zoo]