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Albinism in Arctic areas?

Posted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 7:09 am
by Jeames
I heard a lot of wolves with albinism are born blind and die first because their prey often sees them easier, but some of them are not born blind, but that's what I heard, of course.

So I was wondering, can a wolf with albinism survive in the Arctic areas with lots of snow and cold weather when it's not born blind?

Re: Albinism in Arctic areas?

Posted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 1:02 am
by pickledham
I assume it would be able to blend in during the winter months, but when the snow melts in the summer it might be difficult for them to survive if their fur doesn't change color.

Re: Albinism in Arctic areas?

Posted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 3:25 am
by Jeames
Oh yes of course. I forgot about that. xD
Thank you! ^^

Re: Albinism in Arctic areas?

Posted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 4:45 pm
by Nordue
Jeames wrote:I heard a lot of wolves with albinism are born blind and die first because their prey often sees them easier, but some of them are not born blind, but that's what I heard, of course.

So I was wondering, can a wolf with albinism survive in the Arctic areas with lots of snow and cold weather when it's not born blind?
  • The logic you have here Jeames is from general knowledge about albinism and natural selection. While not technically incorrect assumptions to make about albinistic animals in general, the case of wolves specifically is more interesting, and the above logic may not apply as you have it. Why? There are no recorded cases of a gray wolf having albinism!

    I did a brief literature review concerning gray wolves and albinism, and I could find no recorded instance of a wild or captive gray wolf (not counting wolfdogs) having albinism. If someone can find one, that would be awesome!

    In a student's 2012 Master's thesis, Albinism in Wild Vertebrates (https://digital.library.txstate.edu/bit ... THESIS.pdf), she found no records for albino gray wolf, however she did find albino coyotes, dingoes, and domestic dogs.

    Consider that many wolves in colder climates have lighter colorations that are not caused by albinism. There is a higher ratio of light-colored wolves to dark wolves in the high arctic. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/article ... /figure/F1, Fig. 1A), as one might logically expect with evolution by natural selection. Age can also lighten a wolf's colors.

    Source of figure: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2903542/

    I actually do not know if wolves can or cannot exhibit albinism in the first place, because genetics is rarely as simple as homozygous or heterozygous expression of genes, like they teach us in high school biology XD. Until we know that much, whether albinistic wolves would be, and if they are surviving, are more frequent in arctic/white areas over forests or dry deserts remains to be seen.

    TL;DR: An albino wolf would theoretically have excellent camouflage in the high arctic or similar conditions, but may face related eye disorders and problems in body warming, since albinism means no dark pigments to absorb heat. Brr!

Re: Albinism in Arctic areas?

Posted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 2:56 am
by Jeames
Haha okay, that clears things up! Thanks Tonbei! ^^

Re: Albinism in Arctic areas?

Posted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:27 pm
by Nordue
  • You're welcome Jeames :P. I might've went a bit overboard, but hey, we both learn as we go!

Re: Albinism in Arctic areas?

Posted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:28 pm
by Jeames
Tonbei wrote:
  • You're welcome Jeames :P. I might've went a bit overboard, but hey, we both learn as we go!
Haha it's fine. Whenever you want to help someone, you always learn new things yourself and want to mention those things, too. I've got the same. ;D

Re: Albinism in Arctic areas?

Posted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:51 pm
by alethe
Wouldn't albinism also make them less tolerant of the sun? Or is that only a human albinism trait?

Re: Albinism in Arctic areas?

Posted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 1:10 pm
by Nordue
river6 wrote:Wouldn't albinism also make them less tolerant of the sun? Or is that only a human albinism trait?
  • As in sunburns and skin cancer risks? I would assume so, since the loss of melanin pigment happens in all species. And melanin helps mitigate the effects of harmful UV rays by absorbing them. Although all that fur probably mitigates the dangers somewhat. But that's just my opinion; I didn't do any research this time!

Re: Albinism in Arctic areas?

Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2014 11:02 am
by ItsLiminal
Tonbei wrote: Consider that many wolves in colder climates have lighter colorations that are not caused by albinism. There is a higher ratio of light-colored wolves to dark wolves in the high arctic.
Precisely. Tonbei stated it beautifully. Basically, light coats are just a simple adaptation for all the snow and chilliness! It's not that they are albino, it's simply because they are better suited to their environment by growing thick white fur instead of, say, short gray fur. The same goes for arctic foxes, polar bears, snowshoe hares, etc, that all demonstrate seemingly albino qualities when compared to their more common counterparts. It's all a matter of adaptation. :)