But he’s trying! This white lion cub, just born at a zoo in Serbia, is trying so hard to roar like the big guys. But all he can do is make a noise like a sheep.
As PuffHo notes:
Nevertheless, her debut at the Belgrade Zoo in Serbia on Thursday could not have been any cuter. The unnamed cub was born last week, according to The Associated Press. She is the daughter of a lioness called Masha and weighs in at just 2.8 pounds.
White lions, which are found in some reserves in South Africa (I’ve written about them before; go here to see the cool pictures), are not albinos but show leucism, a genetic trait due to a single mutation. Here’s Wikipedia’s explanation:
They have pigment visible in the eyes (which may be the normal hazel or golden color, blue-gray, or green-gray), paw pads and lips. Blue-eyed white lions exist and may be selectively bred. The leucistic trait is due to a recessive mutation in the gene for Tyrosinase (TYR), an enzyme responsible for the production of melanins. More severe mutations in the same gene have been found to cause albinism in many species, while another less severe mutation in the same gene is responsible for the Chinchilla coloring trait seen in several mammals. Reduced pigment production decreases the deposition of pigment along the hair shaft, restricting it to the tips. The less pigment there is along the hair shaft, the paler the lion. As a result, “white” lions range from blonde to near-white. The males have pale manes and tail tips instead of the usual dark tawny or black.
They’re magnificent beasts, and, as I’ve written before, don’t seem to suffer much in comparison to normally-colored lions, although one would think that they’d suffer a disadvantage in their nocturnal hunting success. A small disadvantage, however (say, a 3% deficit in reproduction), could be evolutionarily significant but not measurable without huge samples, which we don’t have.