Evolution has equipped animals with a wide variety of eye-catching and colorful coverings, but all of that variation also means that mutations are bound to occur. Creatures born with unusual color mutations can truly stick out — in the most beautiful way possible.
Here’s our list of 10 animals that represent exquisite — and often rare — color variations and mutations.
1. Venus the cat
Meet Venus, the cat with two faces. Although she has not been DNA tested, it is believed that Venus’ odd color variations — which seem to split her face in half — are the result of chimerism, a condition where a single organism is composed of genetically distinct cells. The good news is that this condition doesn’t affect Venus’ health. Though the charismatic kitty has collected over 250,000 Facebook followers, the celebrity hasn’t gone to her head. She’s still just your average feline.
2. Blue lobster
A genetic mutation occasionally occurs in lobsters that creates an excessive amount of a particular protein, giving them a vibrant blue exoskeleton. Though blue lobsters are rare, they aren’t uncommon either. An estimated 2 million lobsters are blue. Having a Smurf-like complexion isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re a lobster, either. They are often spared from the cooking pot due to their unusual coloration.
3. White tiger
White tigers are rare pigmentation variants of the Bengal tiger. Due to their ghost-like majesty, they are often a popular animal at zoos. It is a common misconception that white tigers are albinos; unlike albinos, they still produce the pigment eumelanin. Just like people have different hair and eye color, white tigers are simply a variation. They represent what biologists call “natural phenotypical variation,” an underlying genetic variation, among the Bengal tiger population.
4. Piebald python
Piebaldism is a rare condition that affects the body’s ability to make the pigment, melanin, which gives skin its color. The result is an animal that is spotted with segments of white pigmentation intermixed with normal pigmentation. The phenomenon is perhaps most beautifully represented in pythons, as it creates a spectacular design.
Though piebald animals may appear partially albino, piebaldism is an entirely different, unrelated condition.
5. Strawberry leopard
Leopards are known for their spots, but this unusual cat might have the most special spots of all. Only two so-called “strawberry” leopards — characterized by their ginger spots — are known to exist, one of which is a resident of South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve.
It is believed that strawberry leopards have a rare, poorly understood condition called erythrism, which is believed to cause an overproduction of red pigments.
6. Pink katydid
These extremely rare, blushing pink katydids are another spectacular result of erythrism. Though they’re beautiful, these little guys really stick out — unlike their green relatives — and that isn’t always a good thing. Predators can spot them more easily, making finding a pink katydid especially rare.
7. Brown panda bear
Few animals have such iconic coloration as pandas, but even fewer look like this. Watch this video of the extremely rare brown panda, an animal with normal panda coat design, but with brown patches instead of black. Only a handful of brown pandas have ever been discovered (which also explains why we’re relying on video snapshots to show you what it looks like.)
8. Black penguin
This all-black penguin is such a rare sight that it has been called “one in a zillion.” Filmed by National Geographic contributor Andrew Evans on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, it is the only all-black penguin ever witnessed. Scientists suspect the coloration is due to a condition called melanism, which is the opposite of albinism. Rather than lacking pigmentation, melanistic animals have dark spots which cover the body.
9. Gold-striped zebra
This zebra looks like a creature out of a fantasy novel. Rather than possessing the typical black and white stripes, it appears gold-striped. The unusual coloring is due to having a condition called amelanism, which is similar to albinism. In fact, in mammals the symptoms of amelanism and albinism are virtually indistinguishable.
10. Pink dolphin
Dolphins with a pinkish hue are a relatively common sight throughout the Amazon basin. These clever carnation cetaceans are the largest freshwater dolphins in the world, and their pink coloration comes from blood vessels that are located unusually close to the skin. Individuals will vary in color from pink to gray to black and white.