So You’ve Heard Of Albino Animals? Melanistic Animals Are The Total Opposite

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Nature is a truly wonderful thing and always offers up some amazing sights.

For example, there’s a lot of beautiful animals in the world, from the overly large to the soft and small, each species having something completely different to offer.

Nature can also through up some oddities as well, such as albino animals. These rare variations are due to genetic mutations and the animals are completely white as the pigment in their skin contains no melanin. Seeing one in the wild is a huge accomplishment in itself.

Snowflake the Albino gorilla.

There is of course, another end of the spectrum and this is known as melanism.

Melanism is the opposite of albinism and is characterized by an over development of dark-colored pigment in the skin and appendages making the affected animal appear almost completely black.

The silver fox is a melanistic form of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes). Some silver foxes are bluish-grey, and some may have a cinereous colour on the sides. Historically, silver foxes were among the most valued fur-bearer, and their pelts were frequently worn by nobles in Russia, Western Europe, and China.

The word ‘melanism’ comes a Greek word meaning ‘black pigment’.

Pseudo-melanism is another variant of pigmentation in animals and refers to dark spots or enlarged stripes that cover a large part of the body of the animal making it appear melanistic, rather than being totally black, such as the black zebra below.

The black zebra.

While most types of melanism are due to mutated genes, there are some forms of melanism that relate to the process of adaptation. This, not surprisingly, is called adaptive melanism with the most common reasons being hunting and survival.

Dark individuals become become better adapted to survive and reproduce in their environment as they are better camouflaged, basically evolution in practice. This makes some species less conspicuous to predators, while others, such as melanistic ratsnakes, use it as a an advantage when hunting during the night.

The melanistic ratsnake.

Adaptive melanism is typically hereditary and is passed down through generations due to a dominant gene. Many animals have shown some form of adaptive melanism such as squirrels, many feline and canine variants and certain reptiles.

These beautiful animals are certainly impressive to look at and seeing one up close and personal in real life would be even more amazing. The chances of that happening are extremely low though so for now, we can just sit back and admire these melanistic animals in all their glory!

A melanistic black panther (Panthera onca).

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Lara Ramirez
Lara is a passionate traveler and writer and actively seeks to draw attention to current world affairs and ways we can protect our planet. She is a free-thinker and loves to share her wealth of experience and knowledge in the hope of entertaining and to broaden your mind.

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