Tourists aboard the National Geographic Journey to Antarctica cruise were astonished by sightings of a beautiful golden penguin in the middle of a black and white flock. This was a special event because animals of its colouring are rare and hardly ever seen in the wild. The blonde bird was determined to be a chinstrap penguin, a member of a species that occupies the shores of the Southern Pacific and Antarctic Ocean. Seen relaxing just off one of the South Shetland Islands, the adorable creature has been categorized as a leucistic penguin due to the unique traces of blonde colour running through its coat.
Leucism is a condition resulting from a genetic mutation that reduces the production of pigmentation in an animal’s skin cells. It is uncommon in wild animals because it makes them stand out from the rest of their species as a target, but does make for an interesting creature to look at, such as this adorable white giraffe Omo recently spotted in Tanzania. Specifically in birds, the condition is known as isabellinisim and is caused by a limited melanin in the plumage and feathers. The chance genetic condition results in the unique creamy, pale gold colour that makes this little penguin the odd one out of its colony.
Though his penguin mates don’t seem to mind his appearance, and it shouldn’t affect his ability to find a breeding partner, the typical black and white colour of a penguin helps to camouflage it from predators and prey. Therefore, this odd duck’s appearance may affect its chances of survival unless it is able to compensate by being extra stealthy and aware of predators.