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Brightly Colored Animals

Updated on December 3, 2017

Some animals are naturally brightly colored, but others exhibit this trait only when effected by specific mutations, environmental conditions... and sometimes we just don't know why. But it is always fun to see animal that just turned out to be, well, a horse of a different color (or a crocodile or a canary).

Some of the most striking cases of brightly colored animals are collected below.  If you have any favorites of your own please drop me a comment, and maybe I will be able to add them to the list. So, without further ado, I present to you a rainbow of unusually colored animals!


Red Factor Canaries

The 'red factor' was deliberately introduced into the the yellow canary bird to provide an attractive alternative. The red genetics came from a bird called the black hooded red sisken. The two species are not particularly closely related and only male hybrids are fertile.

Just like siskens, red canaries need to be fed a diet rich in carotenoids to show full, bright color like the example shown right. In the wild these pigments would be picked up from fresh, natural food like plants and insects--but in captivity they are provides through specially formulated commercial diets.


The Red Glofish

Genetic modification allowed for a much more direct importation of color into the usually silver-and-black zebrafish (a.k.a. zebra danio). Jellyfish genes now allow these fish to be sold in bright shades not only of red but also orange and green. The red glofish variety is referred to as 'starfire red' and was created using a sea anemone fluorescent protein.

Both normal and red glofish are hardy and can survive water temperature in excess of 40 degrees Celsius. If released in the US they would have the potential to live over a wide variety of habitats. It has been suggested that the red variety would be quickly wiped out by predators because of its high visibility, by studies do not support this hypothesis.

Glofish, picture courtesy of
Glofish, picture courtesy of


The Pink Hippo

A pink hippopotamus was sighted in Kenya, probably a leucistic animal (one that lacks the normal dark skin pigments typical for the species, but does not lack pigment entirely as with complete albinism).

Another hippo in captivity at the Kaliningrad Zoo tarted out a normal color, but then turned pink. Svetik was a male hippo and four years old when he underwent a rapidly rapid color change.The reasons for his transformation are not known.

See also: Brumas the pink cat.

Pink Grasshopper

This pink grasshopper, spotted in 2010, is thought to be the result of a random mutation. It seems that a loss of darker pigments often leaves insects a startling fuchsia color. The pink pigment is present in all insects but normally covered up by other darker pigment.

There are a number of others pink insects that have been caught on camera, including these examples: Grasshopper (2005), Katydid (2008).


Orange Alligator

This orange alligator was spotted in Florida. It is probably a leucistic alligator; leucism is a genetic mutation that causes an aimal not to produce all of the dark pigments in a normal alligator. So, just as with the grasshopper, all alligators have some orange pigments, but we can't see them when they are covered up by other pigments that produce brown and black tones.

An orange alligator pictured in Florida was thought to have been "painted" that color by rust. But this is a reason often invented by commentators who do not know that orange coloring is typical in genetically leucistic alligators. With increasing inbreeding we are likely to be seeing more and more of these colorful gators.

Juvenile Monkeys

Some monkey species are a dark color as adult but their babies are born with bright orange fur, and only gradually dull down to their adult shade. For example: the silver-leaf monkey.


Yellow Mice

There is a gene that produces a bright yellow coat color in mice. The normal coat color is called agouti. The mutation which produces the yellow coat gene is lethal when homozygous. The yellow mouse pictured doesn't seem that bright but I have seen a mouse with this mutation that was a vivid canary yellow.

By contrast recessive or "safe" yellow produces a similar appearance, and can theoretically produce the same range of shades, without the lethal effect.

Yellow Cockatoo

The Australian Cockatoo is a parrot that is usually white other than its yellow crest. However, on at least one occasion, an all yellow bird spontaneously occurred--probably due to a spontaneous genetic mutation. (For another picture see here).


Wasabi the Puppy

Chemical in the womb can produce similar hair staining, such as was observed in this puppy. Given the lack of follow up stories, I assume Wasabi lost the green coloration shortly after birth. See also: Fifi the puppy (2017)

Copper Kitten

In 1995 a green kitten was discovered. Its unusual coloring was initially determined to be cause by copper forming a patina in its fur and claws. After being given a home away from polluted water the kitten's color faded. (Note: this page on green cat genetics is a joke/hoax page).


Blue Humans: Collidal Silver

In more modern times Paul Karason (right) managed to turn himself blue by consuming large amounts of colloidal silver. Although he now rarely takes this concoction, the blue color to his skin remains, only slightly faded.

Blue Humans: Methemoglobinemia

A condition known as Methemoglobinemia can cause human skin to take on a blue appearance. During the early 20th century the Fugate family in Kentucky were known for their blue appearance, due to the inheritance of this condition. They all descended from a French immigrant called Henry Fugate, born around 1730.


Purple Squirrel

In 2008 a school was visited by a purple squirrel. The cause of its curious coloring was not known, but might have been due to encountering some colored ink or toner and spreading it around while grooming. But some were not convinced that a dye would make the hair so uniformly purple (picture here).

See also: Pennsylvania purple squirrel (2012) and read more about other purple squirrels here.

Pelusa the Polar Bear

But we can do better than that, how about a purple polar bear? Pelusa the polar bear, who lives in Argentina, was sprayed with an antiseptic to treat dermatitis. She became a short-term celebrity with her new punk look.(Polar bears can also go green from algae growing in their fur).

The Whole Rainbow

Designer Silkworms

Singaporean scientists fed special diets to silkworms to get them to spin silk with luminescent colors built right in. The researchers explain that not only does this make the color permanently part of the thread, it is a dye method that produces less pollution and uses fewer natural resources (such as water).

Deliberate Dye Jobs

Others like to modify the colors of their unfortunate pets with non-toxic dyes. Apparently neon-dyed poodles and other dogs are particularly fashionable in Japan.


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    • GoKaliningrad profile image

      Go Kaliningrad 20 months ago from Kaliningrad, Russia

      The Pink Hippo is a simbol of the Kaliningrad Zoo :)

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      wasabi pup? that is cute, must be unique

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 3 years ago

      Thank you for the colorful hub!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 3 years ago

      I like those purple squirrels.

    • profile image

      Amanda Wang 4 years ago

      Looks inposible

    • Rubee profile image

      Rubee 5 years ago from New York

      Interesting article. I'm especially fascinated with the pink grasshopper, green puppy and orange alligator! Wow!

    • expertscolumn profile image

      Stanley Soman 5 years ago from New York

      About the blue humans part.. the FDA prohibited the sale of drugs containing collidal silver so that can't be safe..

      Thanks for this colorful article

    • EsmeSanBona profile image

      EsmeSanBona 5 years ago from Macon

      Wow. I had no idea that animals came in such an array of colors. Awesome.