Spanish researchers have sequenced the genome of Snowflake, an albino Western lowland gorilla that lived for 40 years at the Barcelona Zoo. His mutation, found the scientists was likely the result of a pairing between an uncle and a niece.
Photographic archive of the Barcelona Zoo.
A famous albino gorilla that lived for 40 years at the Barcelona Zoo got its white coloring by way of inbreeding, new research shows.
Snowflake was a male Western lowland gorilla. He was born in the wild and captured in 1966 by villagers in Equatorial Guinea. As the only known white gorilla in the world, Snowflake was a zoo celebrity until his death of skin cancer in 2003.
A few studies had attempted to get to the bottom of what caused Snowflake's color-free complexion, but the exact genetic mutation had never been found. Now, Spanish researchers have sequenced the gorilla's entire genome, revealing that Snowflake was probably the offspring of a pairing between an uncle and a niece. [Photos: Snowflake the Albino Gorilla]
In humans, four genetic mutations are known to cause albinism, a syndrome marked by a lack of skin, eye and hair pigment. People with albinism are at high risk for vision problems and skin cancers because of this missing pigment. [Album: Amazing Albino Animals]