Penguins are bulky little birds that are mostly found in regions below the equator— mostly in Antarctica. They’re gentle and very vocal since that’s how they communicate with the rest of the penguins around them.
As cute as these creatures are, they often suffer from gene mutations that affect their overall appearance. But this mutation doesn’t take away from their beauty; in fact, it adds to it. It makes them look unique and equally adorable. The gene mutation is known as albinism, and it is an inherited disorder.
In penguin species, some odd known mutations make penguins appear very rare and bizarre. These different plumage colorations might have color aberrations, including leucism, melanism, albinism, isabellinism, and brown pigment mutation. Some penguins lack color, and others have an overall pigmented coat.
Keep reading to find out more about these rare birds.
Unusual and inconsistent coloring can be found in almost all species of penguins. But what’s interesting is that these mutations are very noticeable yet rare. Unfortunately, not everyone is fortunate enough to spot a rare white penguin on their trip to Antarctica.
Penguins with color mutations are impeccable creatures that are pretty rare, considering these genetic mutations in penguins are not a common occurrence; therefore, when a penguin with different coloration is spotted, people get really excited.
While color mutations are a rare genetic condition, it still is present among many species of birds, including penguins. But these mutations hinder their ability to function like regular penguins as it takes away from them their ability to see well at times.
There are six known heritable unusual color mutations found in penguins: Albinism, melanism, dilution, ino, leucism, and brown. These mutations all cause different effects in the pigmentation distribution in penguins and therefore can be vaguely distinguished as either ‘albinism,’ ‘leucism,’ or ‘melanism’.
The emergences of these color mutations in penguins are a consequence of genetic conditions, injuries, diseases, hormonal imbalances, etc. However, these mutations are fairly rare; they’re still quite common across several bird species.
Read ahead to find out about the 7 most bizarre penguins in the world.
Albinism in penguins results from a lack of color-producing pigment called melanin from their skin as well as their Plumage. An Albinistic Penguin has white Plumage covering its entire body with little to no markings at all. This causes them to lose color in most parts of their bodies.
Albino penguins have a pale beak, pink eyes, and feet. They’re relatively weaker than other penguins in the flock because they do not have black-colored backs to protect them from predators and other potential dangers.
Not only that, they are born blind and remain so because of how their vision is affected by the lack of melanin in their bodies. Although albinism is a rare condition in penguins, it is still dangerous for them as it affects their vision from birth till the day they die.
They are born with a poor vision that worsens until they finally turn blind. Albino penguins are rare because their survival depends on their vision, but because they are blind, they're more likely to die.
When albino penguins are in the right hands and are being cared for by the zookeepers or other rehabilitation centers, then the chances are that they might live a longer life which they wouldn’t have lived if they were in the wild.
Sure their unusual color does not seem like a problem; however, you must know that a penguin’s black back helps them against various threats and looming predators— the genetic mutations may affect their chances of survival.
Melanism in penguins is a result of the overproduction of melanin. This mutation causes excess melanin deposit in feathers and skin. Consequently, melanistic penguins have darker-looking bodies, which makes them look a lot different from other penguins.
This trait is extremely rare in penguins which, as a result, makes them look bizarre. They do not have a white-colored front like other regular penguins.
Leucism is a result of a lack of melanin in some parts of a penguin. They have normally colored beaks, skin, and eyes. Leucistic penguins tend to retain some of the colors, and melanin is only partially missing in some parts of their bodies.
Albino penguins are blind; they tend not to survive as most penguins rely mainly on their visual cues to go about their routines.
Leucism in Penguins is rare but still more common than other mutations. Leucism has made various species look unusual–colors like pale brown and yellow have been observed in some penguins. Read on to find out more about these birds.
The yellow-colored penguin is said to be one of the rarest penguins ever sighted on the island of Georgia in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. It stood out from the rest of the king penguins because of its unusual Plumage.
It stood out from the pack because it wasn’t entirely like regular penguins with a black coat on their bodies, but rather it had white Plumage all over with yellow highlights. But it wasn’t even entirely white like how you would imagine an albino penguin.
Yellow penguins are a part of king penguin species with a genetic condition that causes pale white Plumage and yellow highlights. This isn’t caused by albinism; in fact, this condition is called leucism, indicating that the bird still has some melanin production considering its eyes are brown and not pink.
Blond penguin is also very rare. It has a white body with a pale brown coat covering its entire face running down its wings and tail. The colors on blond penguins are caused by leucism which affects the distribution of melanin in a penguin’s body.
This mutation was observed in chinstrap penguins by an individual who was on an expedition to Antarctica, during which he came across this interesting being.
Since all penguin species are different, leucism and how it may appear on them can differ across species because of pigment and color distribution.
These penguins suffer from a mutation that dilutes the color pigment present in penguin’s feathers. So instead of having black-colored feathers, they have dull brown Plumage in those parts of their bodies.
This mutation is also referred to as part-albinism, which in most cases is acceptable since most people who are not that knowledgeable about pigments and mutations understand the concept of albinism.
Although isabellinism is a lot different from leucism, these terms are used interchangeably because, in both conditions, a penguin’s plumage appears pale or dull brown instead of white. The reason for this is that people usually do not understand the difference between pigment mutations.
Some species observed to exhibit these mutations are erect crested penguins, Galapagos penguins, emperor penguins, and little penguins.
Given below is a list of species in which isabellinism is observed so far.
|King Penguin||Aptenodytes patagonicus|
|Yellow-eyed Penguin||Megadyptes an tipodes|
|Adelie penguin||Pygoscelis adeliae|
|Gentoo Penguin||P. papua|
|Chinstrap Penguin||P. antarctica|
|Macaroni penguin||Eudyptes chrysolophus|
|Royal Penguin||E. schlegeli|
|Rockhopper Penguin||E. chrysocome|
|Snares Crested Penguin||E. robustus|
|Magneilanic Penguin||Spheniscus magellanicus|
|African Penguin||S. demerus|
|Humboldt Penguin||S. humboldti|
Brown mutation in penguins is one of the most common types of genetic mutation and has been observed in many penguin species like magellanics, adelies, and gentoos. However, despite how common it is in penguins, it still is rare since it’s not that easy to spot or come across them.
This is a mild mutation involving a gene responsible for producing a pigment called eumelanin— this pigment produces black, brown, and gray colors in feathers. But since the mutation causes incomplete oxidation of color pigment, it is more sensitive to sunlight.
The sensitivity to sunlight and more prolonged exposure to the sun can result in penguins having bleached feathers—which happens gradually until they turn pale brown or white. Longer exposure to the sun can cause colored parts of a penguin’s body to turn dull brown or dirty white.
This mutation affects the two pigments called melanin and eumelanin, responsible for the pigments present in penguin’s feathers and bodies. There are different degrees of this mutation as the color of the feather solely depends on the level of melanin reduction.
In this type of mutation, the pigments aren’t altered but what’s different is the deposition of pigments across penguins’ feathers. The penguins that have this kind of mutation appear washed out and dull compared to their regular counterparts.
This is one of the most extreme mutations known as ‘ino’. This mutation causes black feathers and parts of the body to appear pale brown, leaning more towards white. As a result, the plumage of penguins gets bleached over time, especially during late summer when they’re more exposed to the sun.
Albino penguins aren’t that easy to spot since these penguins do not survive that long in the wild. However, in the past few years, a few have been spotted in the wild among their flocks, each of which has a different and varying degree of pigment mutation, one of which is albinism.
Albino penguins are very rare, mainly because they come from parent penguins possessing recessive genes, which doesn’t occur quite a lot considering how recessive genes do not typically get passed down to their children.
Albino penguins are also rare because the lack of color on their bodies makes them more vulnerable to attacks and looming threats; they often become an easy target of larger predators on the lookout to hunt down weaker beings.
It's very rare for an albino penguin to survive.
Isabellinism is a genetic mutation in which the pigment-producing chemicals dilute the pigment that is supposed to be distributed across the feathers on a penguin’s body. This dilution of pigment results in lightening darker colored areas on them, turning those areas pale brown and even yellow at times.
In most cases, isabellinism is observed in one species of penguins known as Gentoo penguins, which is rarely seen. Isabellinism is a lot different from albinism because albinism means a lack of pigment that makes its beak, eyes, and feet appear pink. In contrast, isabellinism doesn’t take away the color from its eyes or beak.
These birds can easily pass as an albino, especially those who aren’t aware of what actual albinism looks like. Isabellinim and leucism can be used interchangeably since knowing which is which isn’t common knowledge.
Penguins are buff little friendly birds that live far off, all the way in Antarctica, so it is challenging to come across unusual-looking penguins. But luckily, many tourists and researchers can now click a shot whenever they spot a bizarre-looking penguin.
Although the penguins mentioned in the post are rare, they’re still very strange-looking. Their appearance plays a huge part in how they look.
If you’re intrigued by these penguins and wish to read another interesting blog, read this post explaining whether crows can swim or not.
My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!
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