Common Traits of Albino Animals

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Why aren't albino animals more common? What kinds of animals can be albinos? Are all white animals albino? Why don't albino animals survive in the wild? What is leucism in animals? Is a white tiger an albino? What causes some animals to be albinos?

Albino animals are very rare, not only are the genetics for such uncommon, but when born, some albino animals are abandoned by their mothers, others are easier prey for predators, as predators they have a harder time catching prey since they cannot camouflage as well. The eyes of albino animals are more sensitive to light, and the skin is more at risk for sunburns and skin cancer.

Albinism occurs in humans, other mammals, birds, fish, as well as in reptiles and all other vertebrates. It is the result of recessive genes that cause an animal to lack melanin; pigment. Although there are some cases of partial albinism, in a true albino there is no color on animal, and even the eyes are red.

Often the iris is blue, but the pupil is red.

Some albino animals have been specifically bred by humans for testing products on their ultra sensitive eyes, or for their pure white fleece, for example lab rats and mice and some angora rabbits.

photo source - albino mice

In some cases the animals appear to have a bit of a yellow color (very common in snakes that are said to be albinos), in other cases a blue gray color.

Albinism is not the same as an animal being white. White animals still have pigment in their skin, you might notice a dark nose, their eyes will be a normal color, or even blue.  Polar bears have white hair, but their skin is black, they are not ablino animals. White tigers are not albinos, they are animals with a rare gene that have been intentionally bred by humans, and they do have stripes.

Another genetic pattern that is sometimes mistaken for being albinism is leucism. In leucism the animal appears almost white, but markings where color would normally be are still seen, although they are often a cream color. An example where this can be seen is in a zebra, where the normally black areas would be cream rather than black. Leucism is best known in lions who will still have dark eyes.

photo source 

The color point pattern best associated with Siamese cats is a mutation of the albino genes. Siamese cats are born white and the cooler areas of their body develop color overtime, with the warmer areas remaining lighter color. Their eyes are still blue.

In some cases albino animal's best chance for survival is in the zoo. If you happen to see a young wild albino animal and think its mother has abandoned it, do not handle it, instead call the proper wild life authorities in your area.