Georgia Aquarium Debuts Rare Reptiles
Albino Alligators Join the Southern Company River Scout Gallery
Atlanta (April 23, 2010) –
The Georgia Aquarium has added two rare albino American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) to the Southern Company River Scout gallery. The male and female alligators, which measure approximately four and six feet in length, are two of a population of fewer than 50 albino American alligators living in the United States.
The albino alligator is one of two types of white alligators, which are the same species as the commonly recognized American alligator with olive and black coloration. The white coloring is due to a very rare genetic mutation that affects the production of melanin, a skin pigment. The albino alligator’s eyes appear pink or red because the underlying blood vessels in the iris can be seen due to the absence of pigment.
Albino alligators have different needs than normal American alligators. These “ghosts of the swamp” have an estimated survival rate of only 24 hours in the wild due to their sensitivity to direct UV radiation and blatant inability to blend in because of their lack of camouflage coloration. While living at the Georgia Aquarium, the pair will be kept out of the sun, and their diet will be supplemented with vitamin D3 to make up for this lack of ultraviolet radiation.
“By continuing to exhibit American alligators, the Aquarium has the opportunity to educate guests about conservation and this once endangered species,” said Dr. Tim Mullican, Vice President of Zoological Operations, Georgia Aquarium. “While American alligators are found throughout the Southeast, adult albino alligators can only been seen in zoos and aquariums. This allows us the opportunity to educate the millions of guests that visit the Georgia Aquarium each year about an animal they would probably never get to see.”
The American alligator was first listed as an endangered species in 1967 due to loss of habitat and market hunting. A combined effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies in the South, and the creation of large, commercial alligator farms saved these unique animals. In 1987, the Fish and Wildlife Service pronounced the American alligator fully recovered and consequently removed the animal from the list of endangered species.
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About White American Alligators
The American alligator species is more than 150 million years old and is the largest reptile in North America, growing up to 15 feet in length and weighing 1,000 pounds. The white American alligator is the same species as the commonly recognized alligator with normal olive and black coloration. There are two types of white alligators, albino and leucistic. Albino alligators have red eyes and no pigment in their skin. Leucistic alligators have blue eyes because some normal pigment is present in their iris.
About the Georgia Aquarium
The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, is the world’s largest with more than eight million gallons of water and more aquatic life than any other aquarium. The mission of the Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programs of the highest standards, offering engaging and exciting guest experiences and promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. For additional information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org.