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Rare albino turtle discovered in India

Wildlife photographers spotted an unusually pale, red-eyed turtle hatchling in Telangana state, which was identified as a flapshell turtle with albinism

Life 31 March 2022

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The albino Indian flapshell turtle

Manoj Kumar Vittapu

A rare albino Indian flapshell turtle has been discovered in Telangana in southern India.

Wildlife photographers Manoj Kumar Vittapu and Shravan Kumar Poshetty discovered the newly hatched turtle – which was 4 centimetres long and 3 centimetres wide – near a freshwater pond in Sirnapalli forest.

Buddi Laxmi Narayana, a wildlife biologist at Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad, studied their photos of the hatchling and identified it as an Indian flapshell turtle (Lissemys punctata) with albinism.

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Albino animals have no melanin pigment in their skin or eyes, making their skin pale-coloured and their irises red. “A gene that plays a role in the production of pigments mutates and fails to function properly,” says Narayana.

New Scientist Default Image

Manoj Kumar Vittapu

Normally, flapshell turtles have dark brown shells with light brown spots.

Only a handful of flapshell turtles with albinism have been documented before in a few different regions of India.

Indian flapshell turtles can live for up to 18 years, but being albino, this particular individual may not survive as long, says Narayana.

“Lacking a full complement of eye pigments, true albinos often have poor eyesight and are unusually sensitive to sunlight,” he says. Some albino animals are also rejected by their species communities for looking different, he says.

Journal reference: Reptiles & Amphibians, DOI: 10.17161/randa.v29i1.16588

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