Albinism in Wild Vertebrates
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Although rare, albinism has been observed in almost every vertebrate species on earth and wild animals persist in nature even with this seemingly adverse condition. Albinistic animals have been recorded and studied since Carolus Linnaeus in the mid-1700s. A number of comprehensive lists of albino animals observed in the wild were published in the mid-1900s and numerous articles continue to be published today. Albinism can be displayed for a number of reasons aside from inheritance including genetic mutations, diet, living conditions, age, disease, or injury. Albinistic traits can vary and individuals are usually classified as true albino, partial albino, or leucistic. Albino animals demonstrate both positive and negative responses to their albinistic characteristics. I looked at albinism from the point of view of the predator and the prey. Some scientists and raptor rehabilitators tend to believe raptors do not usually respond to albino prey when compared to pigmented prey. Other scientists believe raptors will attack odd-colored prey when given the opportunity. The goal of this study was to document and observe albinistic animals at wildlife rehabilitation centers. I ascertained the animals’ conditions and kept track of each to determine their fate. I found 22 albinistic individuals, consisting of 6 albino, 7 partial albino, and 9 leucistic animals from 10 species. Partial albinos tended to thrive better and were released into the wild more often than true albino and leucistic animals. I also conducted a literature review of albinistic vertebrates reported in the wild. Results showed 572 species in 51 Orders. Of the 620 total animals documented, 358 were albino, 210 partial albino, and 48 leucistic.