Sunday, May 17, 2015

Rarity is snow white

There are few things which can be considered truly mind bogglingly hard to find. The rarity make the aura of its/their existence almost mythical. Given this context, the knowlege of a very rare recessive gene in a particular troop of endemic species of monkeys found only in Sri Lanka is music to my ears.  the particular recessive gene in mention creates a white morph in select troops of these primates. This white morph is different to the albino in that the animal affected does not suffer the extreme de pigmintation suffered by the albino's with red eyes and pale skin. But rather certain parts of the body are affected like the fur and certain areas of the skin. Further the eyes tend to remain unaffected much like the blue eyes found in certain white tigers and lions. This feature makes the animal in mention extremely beautiful and  a feast for the eyes.

I heard about this elusive troop of monkeys who contained a few of these rare individuals, hidden in the deep dark corners of the countries wet zone. Despite a few attempts of finding them, I was not that lucky.

This time around of course I was not really trying to find the monkeys but was rather doing a sort of reconnasance for my next trip when I spotted a snow white individual crossing my path. Getting all excited I scrambled to a suitable vantage point to view this rare beauty. To my amazement the individuial I saw was a fully mature adult female who had a sort of "pied" apperaance where few areas still had traces of black. What was amazing was that the female was carrying a white baby. This was amazing to see as this adult is clearly breeding and producing white offspring. There was yet another juvenile among the trees whose white was even more pronounced. More forward than the big female this youngster got into view and remained feeding on a tree. What an amazing sight this was, it was one of the few moments in my life which I can say was not only breathtaking but life altering. Seeing such a rare animal in my own eyes was such a pleasure.

This is a white morph of the endemic purple faced leaf monkey, who is black/purple in color with the whiskers being white or grey. There are 5 subspecies of this monkey with key differences in coating in all of them.

Well known environmentalist Rohan Pethiyagoda, says this is due to a phenomena known as leucism. Leucism is a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation in animals that gives colour to their skin and fur. In the case of albinism, it is the reduction of a skin pigment melanin, but in this case a reduction in all types of skin pigments occur. “Clearly the leucistic gene has been spreading across several troops and may even be selected, if males prefer white females.

White may prove to be disadvantagoes for aniamls as they are easier to spot by predators. But maybe in this case there are few predators around and with a big troop such as this the survival rate might be higher. The rest of the troop seen by myself were having the normal color of this species.