It was a big surprise on September 10, 1991 for me to find a small Testudo marginata white as milk. She was born together with other 8 baby tortoises in the garden. It was a laying that I was not able to identify, while the others were all in the incubator. In a short time, the last remaining eggs of a female marked with the letter N would hatch. A few days later from one of these eggs, one small, white-colored turtle with red eyes emerged. The N Female (her mother) coloring was absolutely normal. She was harvested 20 years before from the area around Olbia (Sardinia, Italy) by some friends that decided to ged rid of her the year before. Thus, they resolved to give her (together with other specimens of the same species) to me. Who could be the father? From the beginning I thought it was a young pale ocher-colored male, with gray eyes, which lacked completely black color on his livrey. He, too, was found years ago in the area of Olbia (Sardinia). It was Albino! In the following years, a total of 14 newborn were albino: of these, today only seven remains, 6 males and one female, born in 1996 and 1997, respectively. In the last year, their father died from a fulminant pneumonia, shortly after waking up from hibernation. A few weeks before he died, I managed to make him mate with the female heterozygote and from 11 eggs laying 5 albino were born, thus proving the male albinism and the female heterozygosity.
Since then, no animal had born, until September 2003, when two small eggs of a female tortoise, a child of N born in 1996, released two equally small Testudo marginata albinos. Even this female was heterozygous and mated with the albino brothers born in the same year, finally sexually mature. 12 years had passed since the first-born albino and I truly wished I could be able to select the first albino strain of Testudo marginata, which I did. This year (2004) I have been able to fertilize the female heterozygous N and her 2 years old daughter by 2 albino males born in 1996 and currently I have 28 incubating eggs obtained from both. But the biggest surprise ever was the first laying by the only female albino born in 1997, of which I have 5 eggs in incubation.
Finally the confirmation
Once the incubation period was over, the first eggs began to hatch. At a temperature of 30-32 ° C 58-64 days are needed for a Testudo Marginata to hatch. Of the 8 young female heterozygous fertile eggs laid in late May, 6 hatched and 2 contained dead embryos with normal coloring. As to the new born babies, 2 had normal color and 4 were albino: exactly what I would expect from a normal segregation of Aa X AA genes (heterozygous for albino). The eggs in the second laying were 12, of which only 6 fertilized. From them 3 specimens of normal color and 2 albinos were born: inside the egg that has not hatched I found a small white embryo.
The N female, the mother of the first albino, has laid 2 times, with 12 eggs per deposition. In both cases , fertility was low and only 8 were fertilized. Most likely this is due to the young age of males born in 1996 (year 2004).
The youngest and only female albino, born in 1997, has laid 8 very small eggs at once. Even in this case, only 4 were fertilized: 3 have hatched, giving birth to 3 small-sized albino specimens (22 mm each); in the aborted egg I found a white embryo . Once again, I obtained what I would have expected from a recessive segregation for albinism (aa X aa).
This is a recessive mutation that follows Mendel’s law. Its peculiarity lies in the fact that specimens start to accumulate yellow light pigments two months after the birth: their eyes gradually turn to light brown color and this makes them less sensitive to UV light, so that they can live like the normally-colored animals. However, they show very pale looks reflecting the coloring of the species, only faded.
testudoalbino professional breeding of Mediterranean tortoises