|Albino Eastern Chipmunk observed in 1998 on White Memorial Foundation|
photo by Ray Packard
Albinism is caused by a genetic mutation that is rarely expressed and therefore rarely observed in populations. Although it is difficult to demonstrate in real populations, it has been hypothesized and stands to reason that the probability that an albino individual will survive to reproduce in most populations is quite low. Albinism is the complete lack of body pigment and can be observed in the hair, skin, and eyes. This complete lack of pigment can occur throughout the entire body (see image) or along specific regions of the body, sometimes referred to as partial albinism. Albinism is different from seasonal changes in coat color, which is attributed as an adaptation that camouflages the individual in a seasonal environment. The Snowshoe Hare serves an example of an organism that changes it coat color seasonally by displaying a coat that is mostly brown in the warmer season and mostly white in the winter when snow dominates their environment. Snowshoe Hares still have pigment in their skin and eyes during the winter months when their hair is all white. Albino individuals lack pigment throughout their entire lives.
This is a rare observation indeed! The albino Eastern Chipmunk was observed crossing S.R. 202 at ~8:30 a.m. approximately 50 feet west of the junction with Butternut Brook heading northward by James Fischer.