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In some works, female animals, aliens, monsters and fantastical/mythical creatures tend to have lighter fur, feathers, scales, or skin on their bodies than male animals, aliens, monsters, and fantastical/mythical creatures.
This trope may have its roots in the fact that, on average, human women of a given ancestry have a lighter skin tone than men of the same ancestry and that there is a sexual preference for paleness in women and darkness in men in many cultures throughout the world. To the limited extent that this trope is expected of real-life humans, it's probably an artifact of farming times, when men were more likely to work long hours out-of-doors than women. This will darken the skin of even already dark-skinned people. This was justified in the European middle ages when women were expected to stay inside to tend to the house while men spend their time outside hunting, laboring or socializing. As a result, men would end up more tanned while women were pale. Although this effect is less prominent in the West nowadays with the tanning fad and the increase in indoor, white-collar jobs, it still shows up in developing countries where labor-intensive outdoor jobs are more common.
This is also true of many other species, especially avians. Males tend to have darker, flashier colors, while females are more drab--peacocks are an especially dramatic example. Some species Inverted Trope this, notably raptors, where the females are larger, darker, and have more ostentatious markings.
This trend actually goes way back in art history as well. Often the way to discern gender in old, simple paintings was by the skin tone.
To invert this, some will go further in the opposite direction than played-straight examples go in the original, such as giving a pale guy a dark-skinned girlfriend, etc...
Animals (Real or Fictional Species)
- In a lot of anime and manga in general, the skin color difference between the sexes will be exaggerated. It's a common trait of the Unlucky Everydude to be tan and black-haired, while his love interest and/or Harem Series will be much paler.
- In both Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin anime series, the girl Akitas are lighter tans while the boys are silver and flat brown.
- Inverted with Luna (a female black cat) and Artemis (a male white cat) from Sailor Moon.
- Female animals in the Ice Age movies tend to have lighter colored fur than the male animals. Inverted with Scrat and Scratette, however.
- The wolves and elephants in The Jungle Book.
- Faline the female fawn has lighter colored fur than Bambi and Ronno, the two male fawns.
- In The Lion King, nearly all the lionesses are lighter compared to the the male lions. Even Timon's mom from The Lion King 1½ is a peach-y tan color compared to the male meerkat shades of tawny. Inverted with Sarabi, who is darker than Mufasa.
- As the trope picture shows, Aleu from Balto II: Wolf Quest has lighter fur than her father Balto; both are wolf/dog hybrids.
- The female mouse, Bianca, from The Rescuers is lighter than the male mouse, Bernard. In The Rescuers Down Under, Marahute the mother eagle's feather color is a softer golden brown than the feather belonging to fallen father (possibly justified because the male had been dead for quite a while, and the feathers might have become dirtier). The same goes for some of the reptiles in both movies, lighter green girls darker green or brown green guys.
- Rio does it with Blu (the male Spix's Macaw) and Jewel (the female Spix's Macaw).
- The Land Before Time has several species of dinosaurs with lighter females. The triceratops do it best, Cera is cream orange while her dad is charcoal. This may actually be due to age instead of gender, since there is a blink and you'll miss it shot of Cera's mother, who's coloring is identical to her dad's.
- The animals in the older Chronicles of Narnia cartoon had lighter girls than males. Beavers are one example of this.
- Inverted with the two hawks that appear near the end of the song "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas where the male hawk is colored light brown, while the female is colored dark gray.
- Vixey from The Fox and the Hound for some reason actually does not have "stockings" like Tod, a male fox.
- Coral (Marlin's late wife and Nemo's would-been mother) has lighter orange scales than that of Marlin, as seen at the very beginning of Finding Nemo.
- The female moose from Brother Bear 2 are a much lighter shade of brown than those of Rutt and Tuke, a pair of male moose. Also, at the end of the film, Nita (Kenai's girlfriend), is actually given lighter-colored fur after being turned into a bear herself so that she can be with Kenai (whom by the end of the first film, had actually decided to stay a bear) forever.
- The gorillas in Tarzan: Kerchak is black, Kala is light brown, and Terk (who is female) is bluish-grey.
- Tiana and Naveen play this trope straight in their frog forms, even though they invert it in human forms (but that's because they are of different race).
- Legend of the Guardians: the Owls of ga Hoole follows this trope at the expense of accuracy by having a whiter-than normal female snowy owl. It also makes the females owls smaller than the males, when in real life the females are bigger.
- In the 1999 PS 1 game, Kingsley's Adventure, the rabbit queen is skin tone while the rabbit king and the male guards are brown.
- In the Crash Bandicoot series, there is Coco, who is peach-ey whereas Crash is orange and Crunch is brown. The other girl bandicoots are on the lighter side too.
- Star Fox Adventures has lighter female dinosaurs and pterosaurs, most notably the Cloud Runners (some sort of pteranodon). Snowhorns are some sort of mammoth in which the females are lighter than the males. Krystal is lighter (purple) too but that changes in Star Fox Assault.
- Sonic the Hedgehog characters tend to fall under this. The male characters tend to be darker or bolder colours such as blue, red, and black, whilst female characters tend to be lighter pastel colours such as pink, lilac, or cream. However, this is sometimes inverted; as there are also males with colors such as yellow, white, and light grey; and females with colors such as orange-brown and (dark) violet.
- In Redwall the animated series, males are brown, dark red or shades of silver while females are peach-tan.
- In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (the stop animation one), Claurice the doe has lighter fur than Rudolph the male reindeer.
- Inverted with Mac and Tosh's (the Goofy Gophers from Looney Tunes) aunt from The Looney Tunes Show; her base fur color is brown, while their base fur color is tan.
- Clarice the female chipmunk has lighter colored fur than Chip and Dale the two male chipmunks.
- Horses have subtle variation of this. Stallions tend to have a bit more intense and deeper colours than mares. If a stallion is gelded, his coat eventually turns a little duller in colour.
- Somewhat inverted with real-life lions, among which only the most macho males will have dark manes.
- Often, female mammals will appear lighter because they produce less sebum (skin oil) than males, which means their coats stay cleaner.
- Common in butterflies. The female is either similar but more or less showy (either browner or greyer), or lighter all over.
- Inverted with snowy owls as only males get whiter with each molt and females stay much darker and much more speckled.
- The females of most birds will often tend to have more muted colors than the males. Some are extremely obvious, such as cardinals, where the male is bright red, while the female is tan with red highlights. Others, such as blue jays, are less obvious.
- Inverted with many seabirds and birds-of-prey however, where the females are actually darker than the males.
- Ostriches play this straight without being flamboyantly colored. The males have mostly black feathers, the females have brown.
- Zig-zagged with European vipers/adders. The males are often grey with black markings while the females are brownish, but the females have a much higher probability of being melanistic (black).
- Most grizzly/polar bear hybrids have a grizzly bear father and a polar bear mother.
Aliens and Monsters
- In Ben 10, the squid faces (Gilgax's species) has lighter green girls. Applies to the Fourarms female who is a pastel red versus Ben's/Fourarm's brick-red. Most of the Ben 10 species do this (pastel and lighter girls then robust and darker guys) if the female is ever seen.
- Inverted with Hippowdon and Hippopotas where the female is darker.
- Played straight with Doduo and Dodrio who have lighter necks when they are female.
- Some of the fourth generation Pokémon have this as a gender difference.
- Subverted and played straight with the Ralts line, where the male-only Gallade has darker green hair than the more feminine-but both gendered Kirlia and Gardevoir (Ralts averts this by having a gender-neutral appearance).
- DC Comics does this alot with aliens (and possibly monsters if given a gender).
- Martian Manhunter is a darker green than Miss Martian in the cartoon Young Justice but it may vary in the comics.
Deity and Fantastical and Mythical Creatures
- In The Little Mermaid, the girl mermaids have lighter tails and skin than the mermen.
- The two Chronicles of Narnia movies, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian have lighter female Centuars.
- The dragon siblings from Danny Phantom are an example. In their dragon forms, Dora the Dragon Goast (the sister) is light blue, and her older brother, Prince Aragon is black. The dragons have a human-ghost form too, but they don't count as examples in that form.
- On Power Rangers and Super Sentai, Blue Rangers are usually male and wear a deep shade of blue. When things are switched up on occasion and a team has a girl as the Blue Ranger, she wears a lighter sky blue instead.
- Aztec art and books often portrayed the males as burnt-orange and the females as pale yellow.
- The Ancient Minoans did this as well - the males are painted a dark brown, while the female are painted as white (literally white, not a light skin tone)