A penguin considered “rare” because of its all-white plumage was discovered in the Ecuadorian archipelago of Galapagos, whose fauna and flora are unique in the world, announced this Thursday the national park of the same name. “It could be a genetic condition known as leucism, which causes a partial loss of pigmentation in the plumage or coat of the animals, while the color of the eyes remains normal, unlike albinos,” the Galapagos National Park (PNG) said in a statement.
Adding that animals with this characteristic “are also more resistant to sunlight”, the park said that “only genetic analyses could confirm the diagnosis. According to the PNG, cases of albinism or leucism have already been recorded among sharks, lizards, lobsters, finches, but this is the first penguin.
Increase in the number of penguins
The animal was spotted a week ago by a naturalist guide on Isabela, one of the islands of this archipelago located 1,000 km from the Ecuadorian coast. The PNG and the Charles Darwin Foundation collaborate for the constant monitoring of the Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculos) population in their nesting areas, as well as the control of introduced species, in order to ensure the best conditions for their survival.
The population of these penguins, the only ones living on the equator line and one of the smallest varieties in the world at 35 cm high, has increased from 1,451 specimens in 2019 to 1,940 in 2020, according to the last count carried out in October, according to the park. The Galapagos, which served as a natural laboratory for the English scientist Charles Darwin for his theory on the evolution of species, takes its name from the gigantic turtles that live there.