"White," Albino-like Penguin Found in Antarctica

Spotted by tourists, the rare bird has a mutation that dilutes feather pigments

Travelers on a National Geographic - Lindblad expedition to Antarctica came across a leucistic chinstrap penguin. Unusual light coloring ​sets this penguin apart from its black-and-white brethren. Often mistaken for albinos, leucistic birds have a genetic mutation that restricts the dissemination of pigment to feathers.

The "blonde" penguin, seen at the edge of one of the South Shetland Islands (map), "astonished" tourists on a National Geographic Journey to Antarctica cruise, naturalist David Stephens, of the Lindblad Expeditions cruise company, wrote on his blog.

Though the penguin looks like an albino, the bird actually appears to have isabellinism, said penguin expert P. Dee Boersma of the University of Washington in Seattle.

This results in a "uniform lightening" of a bird's dark colors, turning the animal a grayish yellow or pale brown, the study said.

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