Leucistic and albino creatures are often mistaken for the other. While a complete lack of color genes results in albinism, leucism is caused by partial loss of pigmentation.
Albinism v/s Leucism
‘Albino’ is a term generally used to describe any individual with white pelage or plumage in the zoological world. But in truth, albino animals are very rarely seen in the wild and most white or pale-colored animals encountered are ‘leucistic’. So, what is the difference between albinism and leucism?
Although the genetic science differentiating the two conditions is slightly complicated, simply put, albinism results in a complete lack of production of pigments responsible for coloration in vertebrates, while in leucism, there is a partial loss of pigmentation, resulting in a completely white or patchily colored animal. The best way to distinguish between an albino and a complete leucistic individual is the eye color. Since none of the pigmentation colors are produced in albinos, the retina of the eye also remains discolored and hence appears pink. The cells producing pigments responsible for coloring the retina have a different origin as compared to the ones responsible for producing pigments which cause the color in the rest of the body (fur, feathers, or scales). Thus, leucistic animals have normal-colored eyes.
Flying snake in Gujarat
The Ornate flying snake (Chrysopelea ornata) is a mildly venomous snake, found in the forested hills of southwest India and eastern and Northeast India, as well as Sri Lanka. Recently in 2015, the snake was spotted in the dangs around Surat, Gujarat. The dangs are the northernmost extension of the Western Ghats and the presence of this snake in the dangs proves this. Although not the first record in Gujarat, the Ornate flying snake is a rare find in the dry deciduous forests of the dangs. The arboreal snake does not actually fly but glides from one tree to another by extending the ribs, which helps in slowing its descend.
This article was first published in the 2015 April edition of Saevus Magazine.