The yellow penguin was photographed in South Georgia in December 2019, and photographs of the animal are now running the world. Experts are divided on the cause of this rare condition.
It is rare yellow penguin was discovered by Yves Adams on a remote island in South Georgia in December 2019, but the photographer has only just released the images, says the website Live Science.
“I had never seen or heard of a yellow penguin. There were 120,000 birds on that beach, and that was the only one like that. We went crazy when we realized. We dropped all the safety equipment and took our cameras right away, “recalls Adams to Kennedy News and Media, company media who owns the rights to the photographs.
According to the same website, king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus), as well as emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri), generally have a black and white coat, with a yellowish touch on the neck area.
In this case, the penguin seems to have kept its yellow feathers, but lost the dark ones, which are typically colored by melanin, a protein responsible for the pigmentation of mammalian skin and hair.
According to the Australian Antarctic Program, penguins with unusual plumage are relatively rare and can sometimes be difficult to identify cause behind these unusual colors.
Some can be caused by injury, illness or by feeding the animal, but many cases also happen due to mutations in the genes. These mutations can cause, for example, “melanistic” penguins, whose typically white parts are black, and “albino” penguins, which have no melanin and, therefore, are white.
Speaking to the same company, the photographer explained that the yellow penguin he photographed has a genetic condition known as leukism, in which only a part of the melanin is lost.
However, there are researchers who disagree with this theory, such as Kevin McGraw, a researcher at Arizona State University in the United States. “I wouldn’t call this bird a leucistic. It seems to me more albino, from the point of view of not having all the melanin ”in its plumage, feet and eyes.
Still, the North American admits that “samples of the animal’s feathers would be needed to do biochemical tests, if we wanted to understand unequivocally whether melanin is present”.