Albinism occurs when a plant, animal or person lacks pigmentation or coloration. While albinism gives animals a distinct look, it can also contribute to a reduced lifespan, due to lack of camouflage from possible predators and a lack of protection from the sun.
Most mammals only have the pigment melanin, and therefore the absence of melanin equals albinism in most mammals (and humans). In humans, the melanocyte cell is responsible for giving the body pigmentation. In people with albinism, genetic mutations prevent it from correctly distributing melanin.
There are currently five known types of albinism in humans. The most common types are oculocutaneous types one and two.
Melanin can cause different than normal eye development and appearance, which can impact the function of the eye.The eyes of albino people and animals appear red, because of red blood cells in the iris.
The absence of melanin can cause those effected with albinism to have trouble focusing their eyes and have problems with depth perception.
These physical difference can cause them to be rejected by other animals, which puts them in further jeopardy.
Albinism can, in rare, cases, cause deafness, which is then called Albinism–deafness syndrome, Woolf syndrome, or Ziprkowski–Margolis syndrome.
Sometimes reptiles are referred to as albino. However, while reptiles with perceived albinism do lack melanin, they do not lack all of the six pigments present in reptiles. Therefore, these reptiles are actually amelanistic, not albino. A partial lack of pigmentation is much more common than a total lack of pigmentation.
Amphibians also have multiple pigments in their skin, and therefore are also amelanistic, not albino.
Albinism in humans unfortunately can put them in danger. People with albinism are targets of violence and murder in Tanzania, despite efforts by advocacy organizations like Under the Same Sun to stop the violence and raise awareness.
This persecution is linked to superstitions that certain body parts of people with albinism can transmit magical powers when approved. This has led to people who believe in these superstitions to try to remove the body parts of people with albino.
According to the National Organization of Albinism and Hypopigmentation, one in every 30,000 Americans has some form of albinism, while around 1 in 3000 people in East Africa has some sort of albinism.
According to ornithologists, about one in every 2000 birds has some form of albinism.
Albinism is an inherited trait, meaning that it is passed on genetically from parent to child.
About one in seventy human beings have a recessive gene for albinism, but around one in 20,000 on average actually exhibits albinism.
Albino people referred to as ‘dondo’ in Spanish, and as ‘blafard’ in French.
Albinism was not classified as a difference until the end of the seventeen century in Europe.
Some parts of Texas have a preoccupation with albino squirrels. In 2001, the Albino Squirrel Preservation Society was founded at the University of Texas at Austin, while students at the University of North Texas petitioned to make them secondary mascots. The Albino Squirrel Preservation Society spread to other high schools and universities, including Julliard School of Music, Cambridge University, and the University of Western Ontario.
American scientist Rob Nelson tracks white squirrel sightings online, and notes that the five cities with the most white squirrel sightings in North America are Marionville, MO, Brevard, NC, Olney, Il, Kenton, TN, and Exeter, Ontario. He also notes many squirrel sightings in Washington, DC, Bowling Green, KY, Minneapolis, MN, and Boston, MA.
Albino animals are also targeted by bounty hunters, because they can make them ten times the amount of money as regular animals.
However, different legends say that any hunter which kills an albino antelope or deer will be faced with misfortune and bad luck.
Individual animals known for their albinism include Claude the alligator, Mahpiya Ska the water buffalo, Pinkie the dolphin, Warton Willie the Canadian groundhog, and Snowflake the gorilla.
Notable people with albinism include model Connie Chiu, politician Abdallah Possi, comedian Victor Varnado, priest William Archibald Spooner, and 22nd Emperor of Japan Seinei.
- What causes albinism?
- National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation
- The great white hunted: plight of albino animals
- 10 Most Incredible Albino Animals on Earth
- Remember UT’s albino squirrels on this #SquirrelAppreciationDay
- The Albino Squirrel Preservation Society
- White Deer: Understanding a Common Animal of Uncommon Color
- ALL ABOUT ALBINISM
- Albino: Oxford Companion to the Body
- White and Albino Squirrel Research Initiative
- How rare are albino moose?
- Stunning Albino and Leucistic Animals: Living in the Wild vs. Captivity