A super rare albino panda was spotted in the Sichuan Wolong National Nature Reserve. This panda’s white hair, white claws, and red eyes had us wondering, did it forget to wear its natural black vest and smoky eye makeup? Or did it have such an excellent night’s sleep that it lost the signature dark circles around the eyes?
A wild infrared trigger camera captured the albino panda passing through the lush forest at an altitude of 2,000 meters above sea level. The picture clearly shows the unique morphological characteristics of this giant panda.
Based on these external features on the photo, experts concluded that the panda is an albino individual. Judging from the size, this is a sub-adult or young panda, about 1 to 2 years old.
According to Li Sheng, member of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Bear Specialist Group and researcher at the Peking University School of Life Sciences, the phenomenon of “albinism” is found in various groups of vertebrate animals, but they are rare and usually due to genetic mutations. The bodies of albino individuals do not synthesize melanin, a dark pigment, so they appear white, yellowish white or pale yellow.
Missing pigments means that the animal is more likely to be found in the environment, and their body is more sensitive to direct sunlight. However, a single “albinism” mutation usually has no significant effect on the animal’s physical structure, activity, or reproduction.
The panda photographed by Wolong showed that there was an “albinism” gene in the giant panda population in Wolong. From the photo, experts confirmed that the individual is physically healthy with a steady gait, evidence that the mutation may not have affected the daily life of this panda.
The “albinism” mutation is a recessive gene that can be inherited. Each animal has two sets of genes from both parents. Only when the gene from both the parent and the mother are mutated, the individual will develop into an albino. Based on the current data, it is not yet possible to judge the gender of this individual.
When the albino panda and healthy wild individuals (the ordinary “black and white” pandas) that do not carry the mutated gene successfully produce offspring, the first generation of panda babies will still appear black and white, but they will carry an “albinism” gene.
When two individuals carrying the mutated gene reproduce, it is possible that both of the inherited genes may be mutated to produce an albino individual.
Whether the albino mutant gene will be further transmitted around the giant panda population of Wolong will also need to be observed through continuous field monitoring in the protected area.
To understand the composition and habitat utilization of the diverse species in the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan, the Administration launched the monitoring and research work in 2018. In the various ecosystems of the protected area, scientists selected seven sample plots of 20 square kilometers, respectively. An infrared trigger camera was set up to monitor the distribution and dynamic changes of wild animals in each area.
This photo of the albino giant panda comes from one of the monitoring areas.
All information comes from https://mp.weixin.qq.com/
Translated by Andrea Jia
Edited by Andrea Jia and Riley Peng @ Animal Dialogue