Melanin is the dark pigmentation which is responsible for the tanning process which occurs in humans when they’re exposed to sunlight. In people it is actually a reaction to damage of the skin cells. A melanistic animal has an increased amount of this black or nearly black pigmentation in the skin, feathers, hair, or other outer tissues. Melanism is the opposite of albinism and occurs with about the same frequency. The genetic basis is not clearly understood, but inbreeding is considered partially responsible. It is very common in some species, and is bred for in others. For instance, reptile breeders aim for the unusual colors that result from an excess of melanin. Black animals often have a sinister meaning in myth and superstition. In Britain black rabbits were though to carry human souls, and a black cat might be a witch in animal form or her familiar. Other beliefs more idiosyncratic, for example if a black moth flies into your face it is meant to mean that someone has written you a letter.
Melanistic Eastern Blue Tongue Lizards
Melanistic Red Fox
Melanistic Eastern Grey Squirrel