Thanks to Darwin and the Galapagos Islands, we know that environment and likelihood of reproduction determine most everything about an animal’s appearance. But sometimes, a genetic anomaly doesn’t condemn an animal to death who strays too far from the species’ norm. And sometimes, these genetic variations manifest as unique coloration that stands out from the herd. Here are six animals with unique colors.
Pink manta ray: First discovered by a diving instructor off the Great Barrier Reef in 2015, the manta ray has a bright pink belly instead of a typical white one. Scientists named the manta ray Inspector Clouseau as a nod to the movie, The Pink Panther. They first believed that an infection caused the pink color, it now seems likely that the pink color is just an unusual expression of melanin in the skin. Regardless of the cause, everyone agrees it is adorable. (x)
“Strawberry” leopard: Most leopards are a tawny gold color with dark spots to help camouflage them from their prey. In 2012, wildlife photographer Deon De Villiers sent a photo to Panthera, a US based cat conservation group. It showed a leopard with reddish spots instead of black. Scientists believe it has a condition which causes red pigmentation to overproduce and dark pigmentation to under-produce. The strawberry-blonde panther hasn’t seemed to suffer any ill effects, and Panthera considers the animal a successful big cat. (x)
Blonde zebras: Seeing as they’re known for their distinctive black and white stripes, the first photographs of blonde zebras in the wild caused quite a stir. White zebras sometimes occur in captivity, but popular belief held they wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild without their herd camouflage. However, at least one zebra with partial-albinism survived to adulthood. (x)
Gold cardinals: Cardinals (both the baseball team and the bird) are red. With their spikey head plumage and sharp little beaks, they’re impressive, and striking birds. One in Alabama is even more so. He has a condition called xanthochroism, which makes his feathers gold instead of red. It sometimes happens in cardinals, house finches, and evening grosbeaks. (x)
Blue lobsters: Most of us are familiar with lobsters post-cooking pot, when they’re bright red. But while they’re still running around the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, they’re a dark brown color, not at all noteworthy. Except, one in every two-million produces extra proteins and develops a bright blue shell. Amongst fishermen, catching one is a sign of good luck. Don’t expect to find one on your dinner plate, these rare lobsters (including gold and albino) immediately return to sea or spend a brief time in captivity before release. (x)
Kermode bears: This species of bear lives in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia and looks like the offspring of black bears and polar bears. They’re a rare subspecies of black bear, who receive their unique coloration from a recessive gene. No one is sure how many of the bears exist, but there are estimates that the greatest concentration of white bears is 7 out of 35 Kermode bears. (x)