Did you know albino seals existed before today? I sure didn't, but now I'm certifiably obsessed.
Marine mammal biologist Vladimir Burkanov and his team recently discovered an albino seal pup living on Tyuleny Island, a small land mass just off the northern coast of Japan. The pup was hanging out with all his other pup friends, but it might not look the way you'd imagine.
Instead of white fur, the typical coloring of albino animals, this seal pup took on a more chestnut color, with no pigment at all in its eyes.
Of course, he sticks out like a sore thumb among his colony, but we just can't get enough of him.
Burkanov shared that he and his team have dubbed the seal pup the Ugly Duckling, which is totally unfair in my mind because, c'mon, he's a cutie! The biologist called the albino pup a "rare event" (about 1 in 100,000 cases, he told the Daily Mail), noting that the reddish vs. white coloring is typical for the species.
While albino seal pups tend to not live into adulthood (their different fur color ostracizes them from the group at large, meaning they're not well taken care of as babies), Burkanov mentioned that this one looked to be assimilated well and that experts will be monitoring it.
"This pup looks well-fed and was very active, so its mother clearly gave it plenty of milk. But it is not getting chased or bitten," he said.
The only other case of these special seals Burkanov has to go off of is one that a colleague of his documented years ago. In another Instagram post, he explained that this other researcher photographed a seal colony on Bering Island in 2017 and encountered a 2- to 3-year-old albino seal; he'd found the same seal just this past summer, vibing and thriving.
No "Ugly Ducklings" here -- just a bunch of seals being seals.