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Albino turtles 

A 'white turtle' - wow! Most of us have heard of them and some even seen one.It might even become an obsession to us turtle lovers to have this gem in our posession.After all most of us collectors have this one common characteristic - the rariest something is the more desired it becomes.
But what is that 'white turtle' anyway? Below I decided to put some light on the albino turtles, that is how they are really called, who they are and where they come from.

To take a look at some albino or albinotic turtles go here

For the more interested in the subject, first here is some basic terminology:

  • albinism-state or quality of being an albino
  • albinistic-related to or affected by albinism
  • albinic-synonim of albinistic
  • albinal-synonim of albinistic
  • albinotic-tending toward albinism
  • melanin-dark biological pigment
  • melanocytes-cells producing melanin
  • tyrosine-amino acid from which the melanin is converted
  • tyrosinase-enzyme necessary to produce melanin from tyrosine
  • melanosis-a condition characterized by abnormal deposition of melanins or other pigments in the tissue of the body
  • melanotic-chracterized by black pigmentation
As for the term `leucistic`, I have not found this exact term in any of the well known dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, Encarta, Grolliers and a number of biology and science encyclopedias.There are many words which start with leuc- and describe minerals, plants, animal and human anatomy terms etc. and all of them relate in some way to the Greek origin of leuc- as white or weakly colored, but as I have just said I have never seen a word leucistic - especially in exchange for the word albino.Therefore, I don`t use the term leucistic and I recommend to use albino and albinotic in describing the `white` turtles.

Now, knowing whot is behind the basic terms, its time to do some explenations.
There is a variety of cells in our bodies, and among them the one kind responsible for producing the pigment-or coloration of our skin, eyes and hair-are melanocytes.This pigment, called melanin, is a product of metabolism of the amino acid tyrosine, and albinism occurs when melanocytes fail to produce the melanin.Further, this can happen because of two reasons:first, the absence of the enzyme tyrosinase in the melanocytes ( a catalyst necessary in the conversion of tyrosine to melanine ) or a defect in the bodys tyrosine transport system which impares the production of melanine.

Real albino lack pigment in all of their bodies, including eyes, which results in their red coloration.Still, Some animals may retain it in some parts of their bodies like for example domestic en, gees or horses, and are in fact just partial albinos.

There are two basic types of albinism:

  • oculocutaneous-pigment absent from hair, skin and eyes
  • ocular-just from the eyes
Opposite to albinism is melanosis-a condition characterized by abnormal deposition of melanins or other pigments in the tissue of the body.The melanotic turtles are usually very dark or even black, without the usual typical markings like spots or stripes.
More reading & related links:
        Basic snapping turtle info in one file - Introduction to snapping turtles.pdf (116 Kb)  


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