A single blonde chinstrap penguin was spotted by tourists on a National Geographic expedition at the edge of a South Shetland Island, Antarctica back in January 2012. Now, many more adorable penguins like that one have been spotted and there’s even one at the Edinburgh zoo named Snowflake.
At first glance, the penguin may look like an albino, but it actually has a rare condition called leucism. Leucism and albinism may seem the same, but there’s a big difference: animals with leucism only have some pigmentation loss, while albinos can’t produce color at all.
While leucism in any species of penguin is unusual, it’s rarer in some species than others. Leucism is most rare in magellanic penguins, a South American species of penguin. The majority of leucism cases are in gentoo penguins (check out leucistic gentoo penguin pic.)
Leucism isn’t just found in penguins. It’s a condition in tons of different animals such as bears, hippopotamuses, big cats such as tigers, giraffes, and many others. [Read about the only leucistic puma in the world; it was recently found in the wild.]
Leucistic or not, global warming is affecting all penguins and other animals too. Activities such as driving cars release lots of CO₂, which causes the earth to heat up. As this happens, sea ice melts and penguins’ habitat shrinks. Food becomes much scarcer. And chicks (young penguins) get swept into the ocean more frequently and die.
As previously mentioned, a blonde chinstrap penguin was found by tourists on a National Geographic expedition in January 2012. But that wasn’t the only time one was seen, there are many other more recent sightings. In 2019, a leucistic king penguin was spotted on a South Georgian Island.
The Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland has one gentoo penguin named Snowflake. He became popular after a hilarious video of him making some squawking noises.
A different life?
Leucistic penguins and any other animals with this condition don’t appear to have any abnormal behavior, and they seem to fit in just fine with the rest of the colony. They’re considered the same by every other animal.
The only major issue is the bright color. Penguins have black and white coats that help them blend into the ocean and the snowy landscape. This might make it harder for leucistic ones to hide from predators and prey, thus posing grave danger. ★
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- Dell’Amore C., 2012, “White,” Albino-like Penguin Found in Antarctica on National Geographic – https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/1/120112-white-penguin-albino-antarctica-animals-science-blonde/
- Froneman A., 2020, Rare ‘blonde’ penguin spotted in Antarctica on Getaway – https://www.getaway.co.za/travel-news/rare-blonde-penguin-spotted-in-antarctica/
- Mauritzen J., 2019, Rare pale-colored penguin and seals spotted on remote island on National Geographic – https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/04/odd-color-mutations-penguin-seal-south-georgia-island/
- Pochin C., 2020, Adorable baby penguin has very important message to share with the world on Mirror – https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/adorable-baby-penguin-very-important-22429987
- Strycker N., 2017, Take a Look at This Extremely Rare White Penguin on Audubon – https://www.audubon.org/news/take-look-extremely-rare-white-penguin