Rarest of rare: 2 albino egg-laying mammals spotted in Australia

Since echidnas are timid animals, even those without albinism are rarely spotted in the wild.

In just two weeks, locals in New South Wales, Australia, have seen two of the incredibly uncommon albino echidnas.

According to ABC News, one of the all-white, quill-covered animals was discovered by Geoff Hadley on a road in the Bathurst area. Before reporting the encounter to local council representatives, he assisted the echidna pass securely. On May 1, the animal was exposed in a social media post.

Staff from the Bathurst Regional Council posted on Facebook, "Meet Raffie, Bathurst's rare albino echidna." With just a few egg-laying animals, or monotremes, having ever been seen in Australia, we decided he was simply too lovely to keep to ourselves.

The females of echidnas and platypuses are the only two known animals in the world that not only lay eggs but also produce milk. According to the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment, short-beaked echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus) are widespread throughout temperate Australia and lowland New Guinea, while long-beaked echidnas (three living species belonging to the genus Zaglossus) are only found in the highlands of New Guinea.

A second albino short-nosed echidna that looked to have been struck by a car and had minor injuries in New South Wales was documented in photos and a video by Australia's Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) eleven days after the initial sighting.

On May 12, WIRES personnel posted on Facebook that "this rare albino echidna, nicknamed Mr Spike, was released into WIRES' care recently after a suspected motor vehicle collision." Fortunately, he only had a few minor scrapes, and after receiving treatment from local WIRES volunteers for a few days, they were able to release him back into the wilderness close to where he had been found.

The principal pigment that gives animals their skin, hair, feathers, scales, and eyes is melanin, and albinism is a hereditary disorder that prevents the body from producing enough of this pigment. Melanin is generated by melanocytes, which are present in animals with albinism but are not fully functioning, giving them a partly or entirely white appearance.

According to the Department of Planning and Environment, short-beaked echidnas without albinism range in hue from light brown in the drier northern parts to dark brown farther south, and even black in Tasmania. Echidnas are widely dispersed throughout New South Wales, but because to their timid, solitary character, they are infrequently observed in the wild.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) of Australia stated in a tweet on May 22, 2022, "An albino echidna is a rare sight," accompanied with a video of an additional albino echidna that was discovered the previous year. The presence of a non-albino echidna is also rather rare, according to the authorities.

Albino echidnas are extremely unusual, but John Grant, a spokeswoman for WIRES, told ABC News that throughout the ten years he's been there, the rescue group has only taken care of three or four of them.

Scientists discovered earlier this year that echidnas use snot bubbles to keep their nostrils moist and cool, which explains how they survive the Australian summer. Even worse, men may ejaculate ten times in a row without taking a break, and they have four-headed penises.

The public was advised by Bathurst Regional Council not to approach echidnas since doing so would impede the animals' normal behavior. Staff said in the Facebook post: "If you see Raffie out, please feel free to take a few pictures but do not approach, touch, or try and contain him." Wildlife should be left alone so they don't lose their scent trail or leave their offspring in the burrow unsupervised.