StrangeArk blog
Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History

BioFortean Files

Are there green mammals?

I came across an article in a magazine awhile back that asked the question, are there any green mammals? The author argued that there were no true green mammals. I later came across this question online, at the New Scientist site.

They mention that the sloths will have algae covering their fur, making them look green, but do not have truly green fur. (I've seen something along that line written about a polar bear in a zoo - algae turned its pelt green.) A reader suggested the green ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus archeri) as a possible candidate, but NS looked at a portrait and disagreed, declaring again that there are no green mammals.

Obviously, I disagree with this, or you wouldn't be reading this page. So, I will now endeavor to make record of all green mammals as I come across them. I don't expect to find hundreds of them, but I can't believe there aren't a few (not counting mutations, as follows). Colors in mammals range from bright red and oranges to gold, tan, yellows, whites, grays, blues, browns, and blacks (and purple, as a recent visitor to this site pointed out). With all these colors around, I just don't see a good reason why a greenish color mutation would not become dominant in certain circumstances.

But really, what do we mean by green? (Is this a trick question?) I reject the idea that only "Irish-green" mammals need apply. Olive green, for example, is a not uncommon shade of green in mammals, often found in "grizzled" coloration.

The first mammal I will note is Felis domesticus. What? You've never seen a green housecat? Well, neither had anyone else until a green housecat appeared in Denmark. This very odd cat was reported in the newspapers, along with a photo. It may have been a mutation, or it may have been caused by environmental factors. I was informed that the cat has since lost its bright green color, fading as it grew older. But, to continue...

Bat Conservation International puts out an annual calendar with great photos. Their 1998 calendar includes a photo of the African yellow-winged bat (Lavia frons), which has brownish-yellow wings, feet, ears, and nose. It's fur, however, is a distinct green in the photographs. I previously mentioned on this page that I was unsure whether the photograph was accurate. I was told (thanks to Terri McElhinny) that "'Walker's Mammals of the World' notes that while the back of Lavia is grey, their rumps are brown or olive green." Terri stated that three specimens in the Michigan State University collection have distinctly green rumps.

Meanwhile, Kingdon (1997, The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. San Diego, CA: Academic Press) also gives the following:

  • Olive Colubus (Procolobus verus) - "greenish olive upperside, graduating to brown on the back."
  • Tantalus Monkey (Cercopithecus (aethiops) tantalus) - "grizzled, gold to greenish back and crown."
  • Putty-nosed Monkey (Cercopithecus (nictitans) nictitans) - "dark, grizzled olive fur."
  • House Bats (genus Scotophilus) - "Colouring varies from greenish olive and yellow to dark brown and off-white."

Dr. Melissa S. Gerald of the Caribbean Primate Research Center forwarded citations for two papers involving the green scrotal color in West African grivets/vervets (Cercoipithecus aethiops sabaeus). "The first paper offers real measures of real monkeys (including evidence that they can exhibit green scrotal skin color) and the second paper tells you that color is biologically functional."

  • Gerald, M.S., Bernstein, J. Hinkson, R and Fosbury. R. A formal method for objective assessment of primate color. American Journal of Primatology, 53(2) 79-85, 2001.
  • Gerald, M.S. Primate colour reveals social status and predicts aggressive outcome. Animal Behaviour, 61 (3) 559-66, 2001.

As I stated, this is a work in progress. If you come across any new green mammals, let me know.