RAUK - Archived Forum - albino smooth newt

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albino smooth newt:

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will
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Posted: 10 Mar 2011
Hi all
I mentioned an albino smooth newt had been spotted in a garden pond which also had a population of some albino toads last year; just got this photo of it from this spring courtesy of Steve Pash, a naturalist based in the vicinity of the pond, which is in Ruislip, North-West London.

Still curious as to why the same pond has two species showing albinism - also it's an unusual smooth newt as most albinos also still have gills - suggesting a thyroid problem.  This one seems to be a 'true' adult.  Curiouser and curiouser...

Cheers
Will



will
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Posted: 11 Mar 2011
a couple more I've been sent of the same animal; the one in the hand looks almost golden





ben rigsby
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Posted: 23 Mar 2011
great find and pix will.


ive read about this (or certainly a similar home counties) garden pond before. a few years ago there was an article/pix in the BHS journal on its toad and newt albinos.

sorry, no i cant direct you to it. i only borrowed the publication from a mate.

unusual occurrence isnt it? i wouldnt know whats driving it though!
if it IS the same pond, are the nos of albinos increasing i wonder?

thanks a lot for posting this very interesting item!

ben


Diversity.
will
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Posted: 24 Mar 2011
Cheers Ben - I guess the BHS journal could have been referring to the same pond.  I'll see if I can track it down.  
Scale
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Posted: 25 Mar 2011
Hi will,
I have seen this a couple of times in Great Crested Newts
before; the newts being pale cream/orange with a more
pronounced orange dorsal stripe and a slight
'transparency' to the skin. Your Smooth newt (in hand)
looks identical in colouration to the GCNs I've seen.

They are thought to be amelanistic (or lacking the
ability to produce melanin pigments). It is generally
considered to be genetic but may also be environmental or
chemical (pollution). Thus your two in one pond, the
question is which. As with true albinism in Smooth newts
you would expect to see signs of neoteny due (as you say)
to the corruption of the glands associated with thyroxine
production.

Either way rare and/or perhaps localised in origin
Cheers
Rob

Scale
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Posted: 25 Mar 2011
P.S. red frogs are generally considered amelanistic and
this is associated with inbreeding and genetic isolation
(as i'm sure you know). This may be worth consideration if
an urban/isolated population of newts...Just a possible
theory, don't roast me for it   
Caleb
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Posted: 25 Mar 2011
[QUOTE=Scale]As with true albinism in Smooth newts
you would expect to see signs of neoteny due (as you say)
to the corruption of the glands associated with thyroxine
production.
[/QUOTE]

This is not necessarily the case. Impaired pineal gland function does lead to neoteny and lack of melanin, but either is possible without the other; there are quite a few photos around of metamorphosed albino smooth newts, and plenty of records of normally coloured neotenous newts.

The yellow colour doesn't necessarily mean it's not a 'true' albino, as a lot of the yellow pigments in amphibian skin accumulate via carotenoids in their diet.

GemmaJF
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Posted: 25 Mar 2011
[QUOTE=Scale]P.S. red frogs are generally considered amelanistic and
this is associated with inbreeding and genetic isolation
(as i'm sure you know). This may be worth consideration if
an urban/isolated population of newts...Just a possible
theory, don't roast me for it    [/QUOTE]

Have you got a reference for this? I've been saying for years red frogs were not a good sign in a population, I simply never saw them back in the 70's when frogs actually were 'common'

Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Scale
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Posted: 25 Mar 2011
Gemma, I'm not sure where i saw it. It must have been in
a well known publication as i thought it was common
knowledge. Likely one of the several Amphibian and
Reptile of Britain books or T Beebees book on Frogs and
Toads. I'll keep my eyes peeled and let you know if i
find it.

Caleb, i'm glad you told be that. I had felt that either
should be possible (i'm certainly no expert on the
subject). What are your thoughts on amelanism in newts?
Have you heard of albinism in GCNs? because i have seen
what i would call amelanism in two specimens (both looked
similar to Will's newt).   

As the man in the orthopedic shoe said: 'I stand
corrected'
Cheers
Caleb
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Posted: 26 Mar 2011
There's a photo of what's described as an 'albino' crested newt in Pat Wisniewski's book on the British newts- it looks much like the smooth newt pictured here.

It's a bit difficult to say whether amelanism in newts is different from albinism. The term 'albino' was first applied to mammals, and as the vast majority of mammal colouration comes from melanin, most mammals lacking melanin will look pure white. The classic 'albino' trait in mammals is the lack of a gene that produces tyrosinase, an enzyme that's necessary for melanin production.

In amphibians, as well as melanin (black or brown) it's common to have yellow/orange/red pigments (carotenoids or pterins) and microscopic structures that reflect blue light by interference. The blood beneath the skin can also give pink or bluish colours.

So if melanin is lacking, these other pigments will determine the appearance of the animal- any species which has these in small amounts will appear white or pale pink; any species which has these in large amounts might still be quite brightly coloured.





Scale
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Posted: 26 Mar 2011
[QUOTE=Caleb]
In amphibians, as well as melanin (black or brown) it's
common to have yellow/orange/red pigments.
[/QUOTE]

That was my understanding of what amelanism was (lacking
brown and black [melanin] but exhibiting other pigments),
although i also recognise that true 'albinos' will often
exhibit pigments accumulated from external sources during
adult development(particularly yellow). Elsevier's
dictionary of herpetological terms cites the very same.

My understanding of true albinism is a lack of all
pigments at birth(pink from the blood vessels being the
only 'colour' exception)?

I'll have a look at that book you mentioned.
Many thanks for this
Rob
will
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Posted: 27 Mar 2011
Wow! thanks for all the conjectures folks!  At any rate, whether it's albino or amelanistic it's a nice looking animal and the red eye suggests there's no dark pigment production I suppose.
I found out that the BHS article was about this very pond; also that albino toads had been recorded around twenty years ago in a pond just around the corner from the current location, so it's a situation with some history.  I have argued that 'odd coloured' amphibians in garden pond situations may be to do with enhanced survival chances in the sheltered environment of gardens rather than in the Darwinian school of hard knocks out there in the wild.  This wouldn't exclude the possibility of inbreeding producing more animals exhibiting colour variants in the first place, but equally a reduction in selection against brightly coloured morphs could heighten this phenomenon. 

Scale
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Posted: 27 Mar 2011
excellent stuff
JamesM
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Posted: 27 Mar 2011

That is interesting.

I didn't think Albinism occured in Amphibians!


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