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Leucistic American Alligator Hatchlings in Coastal South Carolina

Thomas R. Rainwater1,*, Jane Griess2, Thomas M. Murphy3, Shane M. Boylan4, Benjamin B. Parrott5, Satomi Kohno6, Katherine A.E. Rainwater7, Sean M. Richards8, Matthew Guillette9,Tony Mills3, Steven G. Platt10, Philip M. Wilkinson11, and Louis J. Guillette Jr.9,12

1Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center and Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science, Clemson University, PO Box 596, Georgetown, SC 29440. 2US Fish and Wildlife Service, Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex, 694 Beech Hill Lane, Hardeeville, SC 29927. 3Spring Island Trust, 40 Mobley Oaks, Lane, Okatie SC 29909. 4South Carolina Aquarium, 100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC 29401. 5University of Georgia, Odum School of Ecology, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Jackson, SC 29831. 6Department of Biology, St. Cloud State University, 720 4th Avenue South, St. Cloud, MN 56301. 7Exotic Vet Care, 814 Johnnie Dodds Boulevard, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464. 8Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, 615 McCallie Avenue, Chattanooga, TN 37403. 9Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical University of South Carolina, Hollings Marine Laboratory, 331 Ft. Johnson Road, Charleston, SC 29412. 10Wildlife Conservation Society–Myanmar Program, No. 100, Yadanar Street, Kamayut Township, Yangon, Myanmar. 11Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center, 407 Meeting Street, Georgetown, SC 29440. 12Deceased. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist,Volume 19, Issue 4 (2020): N62–N72

Leucism (white skin, dark eyes) is a rare color disorder occurring in a range of invertebrates and vertebrates, and as a result, relatively few reports exist of leucistic individuals in the wild. In March 2014, we found 6 leucistic Alligator mississippiensis (American Alligator) hatchlings in coastal South Carolina. All individuals were basking under cool, cloudy conditions within ~15 m of the den, appeared moderately emaciated, and were somewhat lethargic upon capture. The animals were removed from the field and treated for malnutrition under veterinary supervision. Three Alligators died within 6 days of collection, and the remaining 3 individuals were transferred to different institutions for long-term care and display. These animals also eventually died after surviving in captivity for ~4.5–45 months. Leucistic Alligators are known to suffer from a variety of health problems, and the mortalities and associated causes of death in the animals we describe here were consistent with previous reports of other leucistic Alligators. The incidence of leucism among wild crocodilians is very low, and disease, increased susceptibility to predation, and collection by humans further exacerbate its rarity.

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