The content for this post has been circulating on Nat Geo, Yahoo, and TreeHugger among other places. This strange soot-colored King penguin took both researchers and Nat Geo contributing editor Andrew Evens by surprise:
“Our group from Lindblad Expeditions spotted this very unique bird at Fortuna Bay on the subantarctic island of South Georgia. Out of several thousand pairs of king penguins, this was the only individual that was entirely black although earlier in the morning I had spotted another that showed muted coloration. Recent science papers (PDF) show that the trait has been documented only a handful of times in South Georgia. Some fellow travelers recall seeing a melanistic penguin at St. Andrew’s Bay, also on South Georgia.”
The black penguin was shown to Dr. Allen Baker, ornithologist and professor of Environmental and Evolutionary Studies at the University of Toronto and head of the Department of Natural History at the Royal Ontario Museum for further feedback. When he recovered from his initial astoundment, he noted the most unusual aspect of the bird’s coloring was the areas of a King Penguin that are white/light colored generally are so because they lack melanin, the pigment that allows for skin, feathers, and fur to take on color. This presumable mutation has in a sense allowed the penguin’s natural pigmentation to go beserk. Dr. Baker also noticed this particular bird appears to have notably over-sized legs as compared to a normal specimen (you can see this in the photograph if you compare our black penguin with the normally colored penguin in the background).
The probability of finding a King penguin illustrating some kind of non-typical coloration is approximately 1 in 250,000. Because this is such an unusual mutation, the likelihood of finding more of these jet-black birds is anticipated at far, far less. Read the blog post at National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel Blog.