Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Albino Alligator

This summer we have a special animal in our Changing Exhibits Gallery:  an albino alligator.  She's on loan from  the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, a zoological park in Florida.  Right now she's only about 4 feet long and weighs between 15-20 lbs.  Alligators can get about 15 feet long and weigh up to 600 lbs--the males usually are the largest.  This 4-year old gator is a true albino--one of approximately 50 known true albino gators in the world today:
Albino alligators were first discovered as hatchlings in 1992 from eggs legally taken from the wild in Louisiana.  Albinism is a recessive genetic condition.  Both parent gators have normal coloration--but each carries a recessive gene for albinism (which technically means there is no pigment coloration in the skin.)  So, an albino animal results because it inherited a recessive gene from each parent.  Because there's no pigment in the skin, you can see blood vessels though her scaly skin--giving her a pinkish hue.  Take a look at the larger scales on her back, the back of her head, and the base of her tail:
The way you can tell she's a true albino and not just a "white alligator" (which may have blue eyes) is to take a closer look at her eyes which also have a reddish hue to them.  And by the way, in the top photo, can you see her ear opening?:
Alligators have great adaptations for swimming.  This is her left hind foot--see the webbing between her toes?:
An alligator's tail helps propel her through the water--and actually is the main source of propulsion when moving through the water, as well as acting like a rudder.  Look at the beautiful double ridges that taper down to one ridge at about the midpoint of her tail:
This shot shows her launching into the water:
I love photographing details--take at closer look at the shape and texture of the scales on top of her shoulder and the side of her neck:
I was even lucky enough to photograph her open mouth--even her tongue is white!  And if you look closely, you can see the nictitating membrane or "third eyelid" just start to close over her eye right before she blinked:

I hope you enjoyed the photos!  This albino alligator will be here through Labor Day, September 3, 2012.  Also, if you'd like more information on our special "Gator Bites" Tour please check our website for more information.  Finally, a very special thank-you to Travis Land, Herpetology Curator, who helped me obtain some of the above photos--thanks Travis!  More "off the beaten path" in two weeks....

1 comment:

  1. amazing images, thanks for posting