piebaldism, albinism, melanism and leucism

Last week I wrote about Tuxedo, an oddly coloured black and white squirrel who was well known in Toronto’s Annex area.

Tuxedo the squirrel

Tuxedo the squirrel

Tuxedo is an example of a piebald animal. Piebaldism means that the animal has a spotting pattern of unpigmented areas (usually white) mixed with normally pigmented areas (often black). Here are other examples:

piebald sheep piebalddog piebaldhorse


Albinism in animals is a hereditary condition characterised by the absence of melanin.

albinohedgehog albinopeacock albinodeer albinokangaroo

Melanism is the opposite of albinism meaning that there is lots of the pigment melanin in the skin. A black squirrel is actually a melanistic Eastern grey squirrel.

melanisticsquirrelmelanisticjaguar melanisticbird melanisticwolf

Leucism is a condition in which there is a partial loss of pigmentation which gives the animal a pale or washed-out appearance. Here are some photos of a leucistic penguin that we encountered in Antarctica.



Miles Hearn







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