What's pink and blue and white all over? If you're one of few who guessed an albino echidna, you'd be right.
Australian photographer Rosalind Wharton captured this rare creature on film when she and her family were exploring Wineglass Bay in Tasmania's Freycinet National Park. Though she's not an echidna expert, Wharton says she has a soft spot for these animals and has found them in the wild before.
"It was quite odd," Wharton says. "I've never seen an albino one."
These tiny egg-laying mammals are normally covered in dark spines, but Wharton says this one had pale blue eyes framed by pink skin and white lashes. In addition to its snowy coat, its claws were also white. University of Tasmania biologist Stewart Nicol talked with Wharton about her find. Although he has never seen an albino echidna, Nicol verified that the animal is, in fact, albino.
Albino animals lack melanin, a pigment that gives them their natural color. Because dark colors help echidnas camouflage, the albino kinds don't usually survive in the wild because they're easier prey for predators. When faced with danger, echidnas use their short legs to dig holes for protection, or they curl up into spikey balls. Although they move relatively slowly, echidnas are excellent tree climbers and swimmers.
Nicol says the animal is likely just over a year old. At this age, he adds, it's impossible to tell whether it's a male or a female.
"It would have completed its first hibernation in September and is now trying to build up its fat reserves," Nicol says via email.
A previous version referred to the young echidna as a "puggle." The story has been updated.