This rare all-black mutant penguin was spotted and photographed by Andrew Evans, who is traveling in Antarctica. What gave this suave little guy his goth look? No, the answer is not Photoshop.
National Geographic's Janelle Nanos asked Allan Baker, an ornithologist, about the images. Here's what transpired:
"Well that is astonishing," he said. "I've never ever seen that before. It's a one in a zillion kind of mutation somewhere. The animal has lost control of its pigmentation patterns. Presumably it's some kind of mutation." He explained that typically, melanistic birds of all species will have white spots where melanin pigmentation has failed to color the feathers. But it's extremely rare for melanin deposits to occur where they're not normally located, as genes control those pathways (in this case, in the breast feathers of the king penguin). After looking through several texts, he ruled out the potential for it to be a hybrid and said that it's closer in coloring to the Little Blue penguin. "But look at the size of those legs," he added, "It's an absolute monster."
Honestly I don't know what's more awesome: Blackie the Penguin, or Baker's response to it.
UPDATE: It seems Blackie has been around for a while! We just got an email from tour guide Ted Cheeseman, who writes:
I was expedition leader on a Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris voyage in January 2006 when we saw the same penguin at Fortuna Bay on South Georgia. Here's ours, taken by one of our expedition staff, Hugh Rose, attached.