Posted on: January 31, 2020 at 8:32 am
Last updated: May 26, 2020 at 10:32 pm

Genes are like a lottery. You put in half from your mom, half from your dad, mix them together and see what you get. Of course, genetics are a bit more nuanced than that, but in any reproductive situation, there are any number of gene combinations that could be expressed in offspring. 


Some combinations are more likely than others, but on some rare occasions, the most unlikely combination manages to express itself, and you get something truly remarkable.

The Painted Wood Turtle

The Albino Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima, also known as the Painted Wood Turtle, is one of the rarest turtle morphs in the world. They are found primarily on the west coast of Mexico and Central America. The name pulcherrima comes from the Latin word pulcher, which means beautiful. This is, of course, referring to the bright red and yellow markings on the turtle’s shell and head [1].


The Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima is comprised of four subspecies, all of which have the characteristic thin red lines on the face, legs, shell, and tail. It is omnivorous and eats wildflowers, grasses and fruits, as well as insects, worms, and fish [2].

The Painted Wood Turtle has an average lifespan of just over twenty years, however, due to its beauty, it is often exploited for the pet trade. They don’t do well in captivity, unfortunately, so many of them die within one year [2].

What is Albinism?

Albinism is a lack of pigmentation in the eyes, skin, and sometimes hair. It is inherited from the parents and is a result of the combination of recessive alleles from both parents that are passed down to their offspring. It can happen in humans and other mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians [3].

An allele is a variant form of a gene. Some genes have a variety of different forms that are located at the same position on a chromosome. Humans, for example, are called diploid organisms because they have two alleles (one from each parent) at each position. These alleles are responsible for the outward appearance of the organism (aka- what you look like) [4].


Some alleles are dominant and some are recessive. If one out of the two alleles at the same position is dominant and the other is recessive, the dominant allele is usually the one that will be expressed [4].

The gene that causes albinism prevents the body from making the usual amount of melanin, which is responsible for the pigmentation of your skin. It is very rare, and only about one in every 17 thousand people have some form of albinism, although one in 75 people are carriers of the gene [3]. One in about every ten thousand animals is born with albinism [5].

What are the Health Effects of Albinism?

People who have albinism are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer because of the lack of pigmentation in their skin. They also may lack pigmentation in their irises, which means they can’t completely block light from entering the eye, making them sometimes appear red [6].

People with albinism often have difficulty with their eyes and may experience rapid, involuntary back-and-forth moving of the eyes. They can also be prone to head movements, like bobbing or tilting, in an effort to reduce eye movement. They could have trouble moving their eyes in unison and may have vision problems like extreme near or farsightedness [6].

People with albinism could have a host of other eye problems, including sensitivity to light, blurred vision, and even near blindness or complete blindness [6].

Animals With Albinism

Albino animals may look cute, but their lack of melanin can cause great hardships for them, thus making it harder for them to survive. 

First of all, their bright white coloring makes it easier for them to be spotted by predators. On the other hand, predatory animals who have albinism often die of starvation because they do not have the natural camouflage that helps them to go unseen by their prey [7].

Like humans, animals with albinism often have vision problems, which can also negatively affect their development, and for animals who have melanin in their ears, albino animals of that species may have hearing difficulties as well [7].

Finally, albino animals can often be outcast by their peers, making it problematic for them in terms of reproducing. For this reason, many albino animals live in captivity [7].

Albino Turtles are Not Great Pets

As was mentioned above, the Painted Wood Turtle is highly sought after in the pet trade because of its beautiful markings, but it does not do well in captivity. As striking as they are, they are best left in the wild, or in an animal sanctuary where they can be properly looked after by professionals.

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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