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Rare "Blond" Penguin Spotted in Antarctica

author

Janet Fang

Staff Writer

clockAug 18 2014, 18:15 UTC
1830 Rare "Blond" Penguin Spotted in Antarctica
David Stephens, National Geographic Expeditions

Seafarers on a 2012 National Geographic-Lindblad expedition to Antarctica spotted this rare "blond" chinstrap penguin in a colony on Aitcho Island.

The condition is known as isabellinism or leucism (like "leukocyte," or white blood cells), and not albinism, where no melanin is produced. Animals with isabellinism have a genetic mutation that dilutes pigments in the feathers, according to a 2009 study in Marine Ornithology. Though technically separate conditions, isabellinism and leucism are used interchangeably. Leucistic birds have a mutation that restricts the dissemination of pigment to feathers.

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[Via National Geographic]


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