David Stephens / Lindblad Expeditions
This rare leucistic Chinstrap penguin spotted in Antarctica on Monday lacks the standard black-and-white coloring of most penguins.
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David Stephens, a naturalist aboard Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Explorer ship, photographed this rare white Chinstrap penguin on Monday on Antarctica's Aitcho Islands.
"At the water’s edge stood a leucistic Chinstrap," Stephens wrote in the ship's daily expedition report. "This bird was whitish, but not quite an albino. Instead, it had pigmented eyes and a washed-out version of a Chinstrap’s normal pattern. Many wondered about this unusual bird’s chances of success. While odd coloration may make fishing a bit more difficult, leucistic birds are regularly found breeding normally."
A leucistic bird has reduced pigmention, unlike a bird with albinism, which is a lack of skin pigment. The standard black-and-white coloring found on penguins serves as camouflage that aids the bird in fishing, so it's unusual to find a penguin without it.
“It is a fairly rare phenomenon,” said Dyan deNapoli, a penguin expert and author of "The Great Penguin Rescue," who added that the rate of leucism in Chinstrap penguins is about 1 in 146,000. "When I was in Antarctica, I never saw one, and I saw a lot of penguins."
Lindblad Expeditions is an expedition travel company in alliance with National Geographic. Its flagship, the National Geographic Explorer, accommodates 148 guest on voyages to the two polar regions and various nations. Each ship in the fleet carries National Geographic-certified photography instructors, who offer tips to passengers. Voyages focus on the wildlife, nature and culture.
The National Geographic Explorer is currently in the middle of a 14-day voyage to Antarctica.
"Expedition photography is a big component of our expeditions," said Patty Disken-Cahill, spokeswoman for Lindblad Expeditions. "The photography that comes out of our ships is pretty spectacular."
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