SHARE
COPY LINK

BARCELONA

Inbreeding made Spain’s Snowflake an albino

Inbreeding was the cause of the albinism of "Snowflake", the only albino gorilla known to man which was a star attraction of the Barcelona zoo for decades, Spanish researchers said.

Inbreeding made Spain's Snowflake an albino
Copito de Nieve became an unofficial mascto for Barcelona. Photo: Cesar Rangel/AFP

The gorilla was captured in Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, after hunters killed the rest of its clan. He was then taken to the Barcelona zoo in 1966 where he lived until his death from skin cancer in 2003.

The gorilla was featured on postcards, mentioned in tourist guides and even featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine, becoming an unofficial mascot for the city and famous around the world.

Now researchers at Barcelona's Institute of Evolutionary Biology have concluded after carrying out genome sequencing on the remains of the gorilla that his albinism was caused by a mutation of the SLC45A2 gene which was transmitted to him by both parents.

"Genes causing albinism are recessive. That is, to be albino, you have to have the two chromosomes with the mutation for albinism," Tomas Marques, the director of the team that carried out the study presented Wednesday at the Barcelona zoo, told AFP by telephone.

Snowflake's grandfather probably carried the recessive albino genes, he said. Then two of his descendants probably paired off — a rare case where an animal receives two recessive albino genes, one from each parent — and the result was Snowflake, an albino gorilla.

The researchers have also published their study of the genome sequence of the famous albino gorilla in the journal BMC Genomics.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

ENVIRONMENT

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.

SHOW COMMENTS