Rare Yellow King Penguin Photographed for the First Time.

In December 2019, photographer Yves Adams embarked on a two-month photography expedition in South Georgia, where he spotted a strange looking penguin.

Of the many genetic quirks that can cause abnormal colors, the most well-known is albinism, the inability to synthesize any melanin. Albino birds usually have an all-white appearance, with pink eyes, beak, skin, and feet. But Allison Schultz, curator of ornithology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, doesn't think the penguin spotted by Adams is albino.

Usually, a bird’s yellow, orange, and red plumage is produced by carotenoids, explains Schultz. But penguins have their own unique pigment called spheniscin, so they could lack all melanin and still retain their sunny hues. Schultz doesn't think that's what going on here, though. She points to color in the bird's eyes and light rufous tones on some feathers as evidence of melanin. Instead, she thinks the bird has leucism. “Albino means that all melanin production is gone, whereas leucism means that there is still some melanin production,” she says.

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