Rare Black Emperor Penguin Captured On Film 

Posted on June 7th 2019

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BBC filmmakers who were in Antarctica shooting the wildlife series Dynasties were in for a surprise. The crew were in the middle of a colony of penguins when they came across one member of the flock that stood out. An all-black penguin was mixed in with the crowd and the BBC says that it was probably the first-time footage of an all-black emperor penguin has ever been captured. The reason for the all-black colour is a genetic mutation known as melanism. 

Melanism 

Melanism is also the condition the African black panther that recently made headlines when images and video of which were also captured in Kenya has. Whilst melanism is rare in panthers, it is even rarer amongst penguins. The mutation produces an overabundance of melanin which makes feathers, skin or fur appear black. The BBC clip asks the question of whether the penguin may be the rarest of its kind on the planet. Whilst that may sound melodramatic, it may well not be far from the truth given the rarity of melanism amongst penguins. 

At risk of predation 

Black penguins end up being more visible to predators both in the water and on ices. The white bellies of penguins allow them to blend in whilst swimming making them appear invisible to a potential predator. That the all-black emperor penguin captured on film was an adult is quite an achievement. The rarity of such a specimen is so extreme there is almost no research available. Most penguins with melanin are king penguins, some Adélie penguins with partial melanism have been observed as well as royal, macaroni, gentoo and chinstrap species.  

Spectacular discovery 

An emperor penguin with melanism is indeed quite the spectacular discover, though in this case, the penguin does see, to have a few white feathers on the tip of its wings and a small patch of feathers on its chest. What we do know for a fact is this footage captured by the BBC may very well be the only footage in existence. As for what happened to the penguin after the shoot had finished, the BBC crew is happy to report that the black emperor penguin is still in fine form, huddling for warmth whilst the rest of the flock continues with their business. 


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