Scientists Unravel Mystery of Albino Gorilla
In a word: inbreeding
By Ruth Brown, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2013 6:26 PM CDT
Snowflake's mom was probably also his cousin.   (YouTube)

(Newser) – Snowflake, the only known albino gorilla who was also the star attraction at the Barcelona Zoo until his death in 2003, owed his white coloring to a genetic mutation—but that's not the whole story. The eye-catching primate was a result of inbreeding, say Spanish researchers, who sequenced his genome and traced the cause of his albinism down to a single gene (a mutated form of SLC45A2, the same gene found in albino mice, horses, and chickens) carried by both his parents ... who were most likely also uncle and niece, Live Science reports.

Western lowland gorillas like Snowflake are not known for inbreeding, but the scientists say habitat loss may be limiting their mating choices. "If we are reducing much more the space that they have now, it is more likely that they will be forced to stay in the group and that will increase the consanguinity," says the lead researcher. The Telegraph shares a bit more of Snowflake's history: He was captured in Equatorial Guinea, formerly a Spanish colony, in 1966, and lived at the zoo for 37 years, during which time he fathered 22 gorillas —none albino.

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Showing 3 of 77 comments
People_Suck
Jun 17, 2013 7:59 PM CDT
I guess Dian Fossey did a little more than just research in the mist.
People_Suck
Jun 17, 2013 7:53 PM CDT
So I guess all of the albino humans come from the backwoods of Georgia.
iq145
Jun 15, 2013 6:18 PM CDT
Problem... Man doesn't learn from history. Climate changes combined with man's overhunting is what made the mammoth extinct. Large animals just don't populate quickly enough to compensate. The gorillas are facing the same situation, but with an added bane... Notice how their loss of habitat coincides with the massive rise in cellphone popularity? It's not a coincidence. Once again, human greed is destroying nature. Coltan is an element used to make most cellphone (and similar devices) abilities possible. It's largely found right underneath the ground where the apes live! The miners build their temporary 'mining towns' that encroach on the gorillas' home, then what's worse, they deliberately slaughter groups of gorillas to EAT while they work the mines!!! Animals can too easily be pushed toward extinction. Remember the dodo!