Albinism is now a famous disorder where the person or animal has little or no pigment in the skin and can produce no melanin. This means that an animal will have completely white fur or in the case of a person, very white skin and white hair. However, did you know the opposite is also possible? The condition is called melanism and means that an animal or person has too much melanin the skin.
Melanin impacts skin color, eye color, and hair color. It is found in both animals and people and the majority of people have some level of melanin. Basically the darker the skin color the more melanin a person has. The condition though, in humans is often seen as dark patches on otherwise light skin. Although some people are born with melanism and have very dark skin as a result.
In animals, melanism has often proved to be a good thing. In some cases, melanism is an evolutionary reaction to the environment an animal lives in. For some feline animals hunting at night is aided by completely jet black fur. Studies have actually shown that black cats are actually more intelligent than white cats. Not only do they respond quicker, but they have better balance and a more advanced nervous system.
The most fascinating example of melanism is the peppered moth. Traditionally the moth was white in color. During the industrial revolution as huge amounts of soot were released into the environment the moth became far more noticeable. Over a number of generations, the moth evolved to be black in color to gain its camouflage once again. This highlights the devasting impact that humanity has on the natural world.
In humans, those who have high melanin levels are much less likely to suffer any form of skin disease. A gentle reminder to our lighter colored readers to apply plenty of sun cream when out and about.