I recently went on a trip to San Diego where one of my main stops was the San Diego Zoo. I was in awe of all the species housed in that amazing facility, particularly the flamingos. While staring at them and holding my nose, as is quite necessary, if you’ve never been, a question and answer session from my childhood popped into my mind.
Why are flamingos pink if they are born grey? Excellent question! Flamingos are filter feeders that exist on a mainly blue-green algae and/or brine shrimp diet. What are brine shrimp, you ask? You may know them by their more common name, sea monkeys. Because sea monkeys contain relatively large amounts of beta-carotene, the flamingos’ familiar pink color evolves over time as they eat.
It seems strange that an animal’s diet can alter their coloration so drastically from the natural state, though flamingos are not the only creature that changes color because of their choice of meal!
Consider the carrot, a wonderful source of beta-carotene. If you were to eat large quantities of carrots everyday, for every meal and every snack, eventually you would end up tinted orange. That’s right! If you worry obsessively about your vision and overdo the carrots, you could end up looking like you belong in the factory singing anecdotal-lessons with the rest of the Oompa Loompas. This unfortunate condition is called Carotenosis, and is, luckily, rarely fatal.
With all of this newfound colorful information in hand, I hope you take note of the fascinating natural world, choose your snacks wisely and, remember, everything in moderation.