If you ask anyone what colour is a dog, they would probably give you a variety of answers. But if you asked someone what colour is a zebra—there’s just one correct answer. The same can be said of penguins, one of the internet’s most beloved birds famous for their cute waddle and characteristic black and white colour that looks they are dressed in a fancy tuxedo. However, you’d be shocked to see this adorable penguin which has none of the features we associate with these birds. It’s yellow in colour!
Images of a novel penguin with a vibrant yellow coat in place of the bird’s standard tuxedo flew across the internet on Friday.
Yves Adams, a nature photographer, was leading a two-month photography expedition through Antarctica and the South Atlantic in 2019, when he spied the rare bird in a colony of more than 100,000 black-and-white king penguins in South Georgia
“Winning nature’s lottery with seeing the most beautiful King penguin and being able to take pictures! While unpacking our rubberboats merely after landing on a remote beach on the island of South-Georgia, this L.eu.cis.tic King penguin walked up straight to our direction in the middle of a chaos full of Sea elephants and Antarctic fur seals, and thousands of other King penguins. How lucky could I be! Yesterday the press picked up these pictures, and the phone hasn’t stopped ringing since then…It seems we are in desperate need for some mellow yellow news ☀ ! A big thank you all of you for your nice messages!”
– Yves Adams writes on Instagram
Some types of penguins have coloured plumage on occasion, but most penguins are the way you imagine them to be – black and white.
While al.bi.ni.sm is often associated with animals who lose pigmentation, this penguin is believed to be L.eu.cis.tic which means its cells don’t create m.el.an.in (the chemical in our bodies which give skin, hair and eyes their colour) in the way it does with most penguins.
L.eu.cis.tic penguins have some similarities with a.l.bi.n.o penguins but there are some differences too.
While al.bi.ni.sm is a complete absence of pigmentation, l.e.uci.sm is a condition in which there is a reduction in the production of pigment cells. It can either result in a partial loss of colouration or the development of patches.
As seen in this particular bird, the partial loss of colour prevents it from developing the much-pigmented dark black colours. Its flippers, tail, feathers—all have a yellowish hue.
Though penguins do have a gene to provide yellow pigmentation in their plumage, it is unclear how it would have played a part in this fully yellow penguin. The colourful pigmentation is useful in attracting mates; but will a fully-yellow penguin be more attractive to the group?