Meet the “Cookies and Cream” Penguin

Most penguins look like they’re wearing a little waistcoat, but there’s one spotted penguin in Antarctica that looks like it’s wearing a snazzy cookies-and-cream vest. Seen in Hope Bay, the flightless bird has a condition called melanism, where too much of the dark pigment melanin has been produced, making it blacker than normal. Despite its unusual plumage color, it seems to have been accepted by its colony mates. Researchers say they have been unable to determine its sex or breeding status. Normally, Gentoo penguins — or “flappers” — are black on top and white on the underside, but this particular penguin is heavily speckled with splotches of black that give it a “cookies-and-cream” appearance. Professor Heather Lynch, an ecologist at Stony Brook University in New York, says she doesn’t think the unusual-colored bird is at more risk of predators because of the genetic condition. In fact, it could have an advantage of not being recognized as a penguin. It’s estimated that one in 250,000 penguins has the condition, which is why very little research has been performed on them.