Does a Viral Photo Show a Bright Yellow Penguin?

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{A photograph} of a king penguin captured by nature photographer Yves Adams in February 2021 confirmed what gave the impression to be a brightly hued, lemon-colored penguin. 

In a submit printed to Facebook on Feb. 18, Adams mentioned he was unpacking gear from boats that had simply landed on a distant seaside on the island of South Georgia, a British territory within the southern Atlantic Ocean simply north of Antarctica. The 1,500-square-foot island is house to the world’s second-largest penguin, the king penguin.

In his submit, Adams mentioned that the penguin “walked up straight to our direction” in the course of a chaotic scene stuffed with sea elephants, Antarctic fur seals, and hundreds of different king penguins.

And the fowl’s unforgettable plumage is probably going the results of a uncommon situation often called leucism, in accordance with Vikki McCloskey, curator of the Steinhart Aquarium on the California Academy of Science.

“It’s rare, but not unheard of,” McCloskey advised Snopes.

Like albinism, leucism is a situation that impacts an animal’s skill to provide pigment within the pores and skin and hair. In explicit, it prevents pigments from reaching a few of the fowl’s feathers whereas the eyes and pores and skin retain their regular pigmentation, in accordance with Audubon. While the fowl’s distinctive coloration could also be pleasing to the photographer’s eye, it might come at a value when it comes to the animal’s security.

“Birds with leucism may have weaker feathers that wear out more quickly-not good if you rely on them to thermoregulate,” mentioned McCloskey. “Also, animals that are not naturally camouflaged have more probability of being targeted by predators. This would explain why they are rarely seen in-situ, as they are probably picked off at a young age. Being part of such a large colony was an advantage for this bird.”

As far because the yellow coloration, McCloskey mentioned that the king penguin’s chest feathers are an “advertisement of access to resources — an essential part of attracting a mate.” Brightly coloured feathers are typically the results of a fowl’s weight-reduction plan, however a 2013 study discovered that the yellow pigmentation in a king penguin’s feathers are genetically distinct from different molecules that shade feathers and are made internally, which urged that their distinctive coloration is probably going an evolutionary trait to spur replica.

But generally, a little goes a great distance. McCloskey mentioned that there could also be no evolutionary benefit to this photographed penguin’s brightly coloured feathers.

“I can’t think of an evolutionary advantage to ‘sticking out like a sore thumb’ in regards to predation, but I also can’t claim to know what a preferred penguin aesthetic may be,” she mentioned. “Sometimes it’s all about the attitude.”

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