January 17, 2012

The cool photo of the week is….a white penguin! This unusual white Chinstrap penguin was spotted by a naturalist onboard a ship off Antarctica’s Aitcho Islands. This is a leucistic (pronounced lew-SIS-tic) penguin, which means that it has less than the normal amount of pigment, or coloration, in its skin and feathers.


It is a fairly rare sight, since the penguin’s black and white coloring serves as camouflage. When it is fishing, a penguin’s black back makes it blend in with the dark waters below, protecting it from predators avove. Similarly, its white belly makes it blend in with the sky when viewed by predators from below. That is a common survival mechanism among many animals (think about birds in the sky, or fish with light-colored bellies and darker colors on top). And that is why it is so rare to see a leucistic penguin. Since their coloration does not protect them, fewer survive to breed, resulting in very few among the general population. 

Photo: David Stephens / Lindblad Expeditions

Read more about Penguins in Seymour Simon’s book, now out in paperback.



Posted by: Seymour Simon

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