Photo in the News: Albino Alligator Makes Zoo Debut

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May 14, 2007—There will be no fun in the sun during Dinah the alligator's summer vacation at the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee.

The albino reptile's sensitive, porcelain-white skin would easily burn if placed outside, so she will spend the sweltering days of summer basking inside under a heat lamp. Reptiles are cold-blooded, which means they rely on other sources, such as the sun, to keep warm.

Dinah, whose name was announced today following a local contest, is on loan until early September from the Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine, Florida.

The park has gotten albino American alligators from a commercial farmer in Louisiana for the past 15 years. The farmer owns an alligator pair that regularly produce albino offspring.

The lack of melanin, or pigment, in the skin of albino alligators creates the milky skin and cloudy eyes, which appear pink due to its highly visible blood vessels.

In the wild, albino alligators make an obvious target for predators, and most are eaten before they reach adulthood. American alligators live in freshwater rivers, lakes, and swamps of the southeastern U.S., mostly in Florida and Louisiana.

Dinah is one of only 30 known true albino American alligators out of five million worldwide.

According to legend, peering into a white alligator's eyes will bring good luck, and visitors have already flocked to the zoo to lock gazes with the reptile.

"Nobody believes she's real," assistant curator of herpetology Phil Colclough told the Associated Press.

"They stare until she takes a breath or moves her eyes or jumps into the pool."

—Christine Dell'Amore

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