A Rare Blonde Penguin Was Spotted in Antarctica. The Photos Are Bizarre.


Earlier this week, photographer Jeff Mauritzen spotted a penguin in Antarctica with a rare genetic mutation that makes it not tuxedo-black, but blonde. While the penguin is cute enough, we have to admit something about it is breaking our brains. Try thinking of James Bond in a white tracksuit, or Charlie Chaplain in a wedding dress. It just looks, well, odd.

The condition, called leucism, means the pigments in the bird’s feathers aren’t evenly distributed. Penguins with this condition usually appear to light brown, blonde, or even reddish in color. Some penguin species are more likely to be leucistic than others, reports National Geographic. Adélie penguins, the species that Mauritzen was studying when he captured his recent shot, are among the most prone.

A few years ago, a similar image made its rounds in the media. The photo was captured by Yves Adams, who was on an expedition to a remote Antarctic island when he spotted a yellow king penguin. It had the yellow cheeks and collar feathers you’d find in any other king penguin, but with pink feet and no black feathers to speak of. Adams’s images (visible on his Instagram account below) were immediately an internet sensation.

You might think that for penguins, this kind of irregular coloring could be dangerous. Their traditional black and white pattern is designed to camouflage the birds when they’re swimming, which is when they’re most vulnerable to seals, sharks, and other marine predators. If a predator is beneath a penguin and looks up, it’ll have a hard time distinguishing the white belly against the pale, sunlit surface above. If a predator is swimming above a penguin and looks down down, the bird’s black dorsal feathers blend in with the dark ocean bottom.

But despite that, scientists haven’t found any evidence that leucistic penguins get eaten at higher rates than their peers. According to National Geographic, they seem to live normal lives and get a normal choice of mates. In other words, neither their fellow penguins nor their evolutionary enemies seem to treat them any differently. Turns out nature can be kind sometimes, after all.

A similar leucistic penguin (this time of the gentoo species) photographed in Antarctica in 2009. Image by Arterra/Getty

This article was originally published by 50campfires.com. Read the original article here.