Inbreeding caused albinism of Barcelona's famous gorilla: study

Jun 05, 2013
Copo de Nieve (Snowflake), an albino gorilla at the Barcelona zoo, on September 14, 2003. Inbreeding was the cause of the albinism of Snowflake, the only albino gorilla known to man which was a star attraction of the Barcelona zoo for decades, Spanish researchers said.

Inbreeding was the cause of the albinism of "Snowflake", the only albino gorilla known to man which was a star attraction of the Barcelona zoo for decades, Spanish researchers said.

The gorilla was captured in Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, after hunters killed the rest of its clan and taken to the Barcelona zoo in 1966 where he lived until his death from in 2003.

The gorilla was featured on postcards, mentioned in tourist guides and even featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine, becoming an unofficial mascot for the city and famous around the world.

Now researchers at Barcelona's Institute of have concluded after carrying out genome sequencing on the remains of the gorilla that his was caused by a mutation of the SLC45A2 gene which was transmitted to him by both parents.

"Genes causing albinism are recessive. That is, to be albino, you have to have the two chromosomes with the mutation for albinism," Tomas Marques, the director of the team that carried out the study presented Wednesday at the Barcelona zoo, told AFP by telephone.

Snowflake's grandfather probably carried the recessive albino genes, he said. Then two of his descendents probably paired off—a rare case where an animal receives two recessive albino genes, one from each parent—and the result was Snowflake, an albino gorilla.

The researches have also published their study of the of the famous albino gorilla in the journal BMC Genomics.

Explore further: Healthy five-pound gorilla born at central Ohio zoo

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rare albino alligator goes on show in US

Oct 07, 2011

An extremely rare albino alligator from the swamps of Louisiana is taking up residence in Washington, dazzling visitors with her brilliant white skin.

Recommended for you

Lemurs match scent of a friend to sound of her voice

7 hours ago

Humans aren't alone in their ability to match a voice to a face—animals such as dogs, horses, crows and monkeys are able to recognize familiar individuals this way too, a growing body of research shows.

Love-shy panda artificially inseminated

17 hours ago

Britain's only female giant panda, Tian Tian, has been artificially inseminated after failing to mate with her male partner Yang Guang, Edinburgh Zoo said Tuesday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, ...