What is the difference between an albino animal and a melanistic animal?

An albino animal lacks colour, so it is white and most of them have pink eyes. It does not have the melanin that forms colour. 

A leucistic animal is light or white with normal eye colour, such as brown, blue, or green.

A melanistic animal has normal or regular colouring.

There is also a term called amelanistic, which is an animal that lacks colour in most pigments but not all, so it is partially albino, and can have pink or normal coloured eyes.

Nile Crocodile (melanistic) and Nile Crocodile (albino)

Eye, hair, feather, and skin cells in mammals and birds are called melanocytes which produce a pigment called melanin that determines a colour. In other animals, there are special cells called chromatophores. Albinism is a mutation of the cells so that they do not produce melanin – they do not produce a colour.

An albino animal occurs in almost all species, such as mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, cetaceans, crustaceans, molluscs, and fish. 

An albino animal is rarer than a melanistic animal. Some scientists think that an albino animal occurs in one in 10,000 melanistic animal births.

An albino animal is more likely to be a male animal than a female animal. Scientists say that this is because males have only one X chromosome, whereas females have two XX chromosomes.

Corn Snake (albino) and Corn Snake (melanistic)

Burmese Python (melanistic) and Burmese Python (amelanistic)

Peacock (leucitic) and Peacock (melanistic)

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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