photo: SC Aquarium
I had a chance to see my first albino alligator last week because the South Carolina Aquarium welcomed the species for the first time. I stared into the tank without even a blink to discern for myself if the creature was even real. The gator floated atop the water motionless until a sudden twitch proved the bright pink eyed lizard was no premonition. The South Carolina Aquarium recently welcomed an incredibly rare albino alligator. Weighing in at about 90 pounds, the gator has no pigment in his scales, piercing pink eyes, and he's more than seven feet long. He lives in an 8,000 gallon fresh water tank specially built to be completely darkened to avoid a nasty sun burn. Only one nest of albino gators has ever been found in the wild because these guys just can't survive very long. Their pigment-free skin makes them extremely vulnerable to predators and if they do survive for any period of time, the sun will cause irreparable damage to their skin.
Albino alligators represent what happens in the wild when recessive genes get together to form the unusual creature. They are so rare in fact that only about 50 of them exist in the United States. Just like regular American alligators, they have about 3,000 pounds of pressure in their mouths, scientifically the strongest bite of any animal.