There are some things that are just a given in nature: The sky is blue, grass is green, polar bears are white. So if you saw a purple polar bear or say, a pink dolphin, you would probably have to look again.
But the colorful creatures in the photos above haven’t been cleverly altered in Photoshop.
Some of the more mind-boggling color twists in the bunch were the result of one-time phenomena. Take Pelusa the polar bear, whose fur turned electric purple by a medication used to treat a skin condition.
Other animals that made our list are examples of color changes that are more organic in nature. Ghostly white creatures are often a product of albinism, a recessive gene that causes an absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. Melanism, which is the opposite of albinism, causes animals to be darker-hued than other members of the same species.
One of the most interesting reasons for color variations in animals is polymorphism, a genetic variation that causes there to be two or more forms or types of creatures within the same species. If you’ve ever seen a black ladybug with red spots, you’re witnessing a color morph that may be related to varied weather from place to place and other environmental factors. Another reason that color morphs develop is so that species spread across different regions can adapt to better blend in to their individual environments.
No matter what the cause, these familiar animals in not-so-familiar colors are stunning proof of the ways that nature always seems to find a way to surprise us.
MORE: Animals That Change Color