From bold, bright hues, to stripes, to spots, the members of the animal kingdom come in a myriad of colors and patterns. Accordingly, it can be a little surprising to see a tigress without her signature stripes or a turtle without his mossy green shell!
Although very rare, albino animals—or animals born with a congenital defect that prevents color pigment from reaching their skin, fur, and eyes—are totally breathtaking. Want proof? Read on to learn more about albinism in animals, and check out these super stunning (and rare) albino animals in nature.
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What Is Albinism?
It's important to understand what causes albinism—and why it makes these animals so valuable to poachers and predators alike.
Albinism is a congenital disease that causes the partial or complete loss of pigmentation (or color) in an animal. Beginning in utero, certain genetic mutations prevent the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for the development of skin, fur, and eye color. Because these animals don't have any melanin, they can have an all-white appearance, often with pinkish or very pale blue eyes. Every animal makes melanin—from mice, to koalas, to human beings—so, accordingly, any animal can have albinism.
Although albino animals are beautiful, their unique appearance makes survival in the wild difficult. Here's why:
- Their rare, all-white or pale skins and coats are treasured by poachers around the world
- They lack camouflage, making them easier targets for natural predators in the wild
- They can be rejected by their families, social groups, and mates, due to their distinctly different appearances
Unsurprisingly, albino animals fare far better in captivity, where they can be protected from both poachers and predators.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
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Zebras are best-known for their distinctive black and white stripes. Although scientists are still trying to figure out why they've evolved into this splashy color scheme, they do know one thing: Some zebras, although rare, can develop leucism, a condition that gives them a pale, almost blonde appearance. Similar to albinism, leucism is a partial lack of pigment that gives blonde zebras their unique, golden coloring.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
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Albino Domestic Dogs
Between fur colors and patterns, eye colors, and personality, man's and woman's best friend can be just as unique as human beings! And true albino dogs have a totally unique—albeit rare—appearance.
Oftentimes, dogs with merle or piebald coats are mistakenly considered albino because their fur has flecks of white. In order for a doggy to be considered a true albino, however, she can't have any melanin in her skin, fur, or eyes. So, what does a dog with albinism really look like? Typically, they have all-white coats, blue eyes, and pink noses.
Because they lack pigment, dogs with albinism need extra protection from the sun's harmful rays—their skin and eyes can be extremely sensitive. If your dog has albinism, be sure to protect her skin from strong sunlight with doggy-approved sunscreen or even a light coat.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
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This albino caribou's mystical appearance makes it look like a creature straight out of the Harry Potter series. And, considering his rarity, we might as well consider it a magical creature! There have only been a few sightings of albino caribou ever reported, mostly coming from the very remote Alaskan wilderness.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Did you know kangaroos outnumber Australian residents two to one? Although Australia has an abundance of kangaroos, albinos aren't nearly as common.
While most albino kangaroos are kept in captivity, there have been reports of a wild, albino kangaroo just outside of Australia's capital. Park rangers believe he's about two years old, which is a true feat for an albino kangaroo—albinism predisposes them to hearing and vision issues, which can make life in Australia's bushland extremely difficult.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
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Albino Domestic Cats
No, not all white cats are considered albino! While white cats simply have a gene coded for white fur, albino cats have a total lack of color pigmentation in their skin, fur, and eyes.
The simplest way to determine whether or not a cat is albino? Look at his eyes. White cats can have a range of eye colors—including blue, green, yellow, orange, or a combination of colors—while albino cats have eyes that look very pale blue, pink, or red. It's important to note that albino cats don't actually have pink or red eyes; the reflection of light against the eye's blood vessels just make it look that way.
Like albino dogs, domesticated albino cats require special care:
Continue to 7 of 10 below.
- Many cats with albinism are also partially or totally deaf. If your cat has hearing issues, there are several safety precautions you must take to keep him safe: Try to use visual cues—rather than verbal cues—to avoid startling him and keep him indoors at all times, so he can't run into outdoor hazards or potential predators.
- Because their skin and fur lacks pigmentation, albino cats are extremely sensitive to sunlight. Try to limit your cat's sunbathing between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun is super strong and consider investing in curtains or blinds that block UV rays. You can also talk to your vet about sunscreen developed for kitties with sun-sensitive skin.
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Although alligators are extremely common in the swamps and lakes of southeastern America, you probably won't find any albino alligators. In fact, there are only about two dozen albino and leutistic alligators in the world, all of which are in captivity. Why aren't there any albino gators in the wild? Their stark white appearance against the darker waters of swamps and lakes make them a prime target for natural predators.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
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Albino Humpback Whales
Albinism doesn't only affect land animals—sea creatures, like humpback whales, can be born without pigmentation, too.
Albino whales have been spotted off the coasts of Australia and Norway, but travel incredibly long distances in search of nutritious plankton. Depending on the health of the plankton they're consuming, these whales can appear to have a yellowish tinge to their skin. But when they return to their home waters—and nom on their regular plankton—their skin looks totally white again.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Albino Sea Turtles
Sea turtle populations are dwindling all over the globe—they're actually pretty high on the world's list of endangered species—making albino sea turtles an extremely rare sight. So rare, in fact, that they've only been photographed a few times; they've been seen scurrying from their nest to the ocean or swimming in the ocean's depths.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
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Albino Domestic Rabbits
Albino rabbits are rare in the wild—their coat color makes them susceptible to predators—but they're actually fairly common as household pets. The easiest way to determine if your rabbit is albino is by looking at her eyes. If they look pink or slightly red, she likely has albinism.
Like domesticated albino cats and dogs, albino rabbits do require a little bit of extra care: Be sure to protect her sensitive skin from direct sunlight and keep her indoors, so she's protected from any potential predators.