Despite the appearance of being albino, the penguin actually has a condition called Isabellinism. This is a mutation which "prevents any melanin at all from being produced in feathers".
Tall, dark, and handsome is an epithet typically aimed at hunky men —a phrase that gained prominence in the '20s. But, you wouldn't be amiss if you described penguins as such because they're perpetually clad in a natural tuxedo and can be seen waddling around with their no-frills attitude. However, if you thought those were the only type of penguins, you'd be wrong. In 2012, a group of gobsmacked tourists spotted what looked like a blond penguin. Yes, you read that right - Blond!
According to National Geographic, the rare "white" mutant penguin was seen in a chinstrap colony at the edge of a South Shetland Islands. These tourists were on National Geographic's Journey to Antarctica cruise, according to David Stephens, a naturalist working for the Lindblad Expeditions cruise company. Despite the appearance of being an albino, penguin expert P. Dee Boersma of the University of Washington in Seattle noted that the penguin suffered from a condition called Isabellinism.
This is actually a genetic mutation that dilutes pigment in penguins' feathers. This condition was based on a 2009 study on isabellinism published in the journal Marine Ornithology. As per the study, this leads to a "uniform lightening" of the bird's dark colors, that turns into grayish-yellow or pale brown.
According to the nature magazine, the terms isabellinism and leucism are used interchangeably even though they technically represent separate conditions. While albinism occurs when an animal produces no melanin at all throughout its entire body, leucism is a mutation that "prevents any melanin at all from being produced in feathers"
Explaining the condition on email, Boersma, said, "Many species of penguins have a few rare individuals with this color pattern." Scientists have observed several species of penguins and the effect of isabellinism on penguins, and have found that gentoo penguins found throughout the Antarctic Peninsula often record the most cases. Magellanic penguins, which live on the South American coast, meanwhile seem to have the lowest incidences of the condition.
The black backs of penguins tend to camouflage them from both predators and prey circling around them which means those with isabellinism will have a significant impact on their survival, according to Boersma, who also says that no conclusive studies have yet been done to prove the same. Stephens also voiced concerns about the rare penguin and said that "many wondered about this unusual bird's chances of success". On the positive side, "while odd coloration may make fishing a bit more difficult," he said, such "birds are regularly found breeding normally."
Penguins are often known as clumsy animals considering the way they live their life but it's a little know fact that they are capable of some incredible feats like Dim Dim, a Magellanic penguin, who swam 5,000 miles to meet the human that saved him. Back in 2011, Joao Pereira de Souza, 71, found the aquatic bird completely covered in oil and starving on the beach off the coast of Rio de Janeiro and proceeded to rescue him and offered him some food. The penguin reportedly deserts his natural habitat and visits de Souza every year to stay with him for eight months every year.