Lions are brown, and Pandas are black and white. Tigers are orange with black stripes. Elephants are gray. That’s how we picture these animals. Very rarely do we have the opportunity to see a while lion, or brown & white panda, but when we do, we are in awe. Such specimens are extremely rare. Color mutations are unusual in the animal kingdom, and they can completely alter the appearance of an animal (sometimes, specimens go on to form a whole new subspecies). Let’s take a look at the most fascinating color mutations in animals.
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1. Melanistic Zebras
Zebras are horse-like creatures with black and white stripes. On extremely rare occasions, zebras with melanism are born. Sadly, such specimens do not last very long in the wild. Melanistic Zebras have an unusually black back, due to pronounced black stripes. This means that melanistic zebras are significantly darker than their relatives. Then again, every zebra is different (there are no zebras with the same stripes).
2. Gold-Striped Zebra
Since we are on the subject of zebras, let’s take a look at another fascinating specimen: the gold-striped zebra. While too much melanin makes zebras look like black lumps, too little melanin will turn the black stripes into golden ones. The most popular gold-striped zebra is Zoe, The Hawaiian Zebra (her stripes are bright orange). Besides her golden stripes, she also has white eyelashes and blue eyes. She suffers from the loss of tyrosinase.
3. White Elephants
Although they are called “white elephants”, elephants suffering from albinism aren’t actually white. Their color is more like a pink or reddish-brown. Despite the fact that albinism is a rare mutation, it is more common with Asian and African Elephants. Inhabitants of Burma (also known as Myanmar) & Thailand consider that white elephants are sacred, and should not be exploited for labor. They also believed that seeing a white elephant means that the ruler of the country reigns with justice, and is blessed.
Another interesting thing about white elephants, is the origin of the name. the idiom refers to things with little real value despite their supposed one. According to a story, the kings of Siam would give white elephants to the subjects they wanted to punish (because the elephant couldn’t be used for labor, it was useless).
4. Albino Eastern Gray Kangaroo
The Eastern Gray Kangaroo is unimaginably white. It looks exactly like a snowflake with red ears and a pink nose. Eastern gray kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) are the largest species of kangaroo (they can reach 210 cm in height). They can also leap more than 8 meters in one jump, and run at 56 km/hour.
Albino kangaroos are extremely rare in the wild. In spite of this fact, one was spotted in the wild by Rohan Thomson, from The Canberra Times, in November, last year. Like most albino animals, white kangaroos also have extremely slim chances of surviving in the wild (they are also susceptible to skin cancer and have bad hearing).
5. White Deer
The Seneca white deer have fascinated scientists for many years. In 2000, an army depot in Seneca county closed. During this time several white-coated deer got trapped within the walls. At the moment they represent the largest population of mutant creatures inhabiting a single area.
While they do not form a distinct species, the White deer of Seneca represent a subspecies of the brown-coated white tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). These animals are leucistic (which means that they have no pigment in the hair, but their eyes are brown). A more extreme mutation (albinism) would leave the deer’s eyes pink.
These are the most fascinating color mutations in animals that we have found. Obviously, almost every species of animals has a case of albinism or melatonism. You can check out more albino animals here.