The white lion (Genetic Mutation - Albinism Disorder)

White Lion Taxonomy

These lions are like regular lions, except for the color of their coat. Lions belong to genus Panthera in the family Felidae. Their species named Panthera leo is believed to have evolved in Africa, before thousands of years. There are eight sub species of lions and one among them is Panthera leo krugeri, known as the Southeast African Lion. These lions are found in the Southeast regions of Africa, which include the Kruger National Park. It is in this region that white lions are found. So, these animals are also referred to as African white lions and are classified under the subspecies Panthera leo krugeri. So, white lions are members of this genus, in which most of the members have a sandy brown coat color.

White lions are unique for their white coat. You may come across white variants of various animal species. This include white rabbits, white squirrels, white giraffes, etc. White coat color in animals could be due to a congenital disorder called albinism, which causes complete or partial loss of melanin in the eyes, hair and skin. Unlike albino lions, white lions have normal colored eyes, lips and paw pads. Just as the normal lions, these lions too have golden to yellowish brown eye color. In some rare cases, blue-colored eyes are also seen in these lions.

The white coat color of these lions are often described as a genetic condition called 'leucism'. It is said that such hair color is due to chinchilla mutation. This mutation results in deposition of lesser amounts of pigments along the hair shaft, resulting in a paler coat. So, these lions may have a coat color that ranges from pale blond to almost pure white. It has been observed that white lion cubs are born with a pure white hair color that fades to blond, as they grow. In short, it is the recessive gene (called chinchilla or color inhibitor gene) that is said to be responsible for the white hair color.

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