Detection of genetically mutated zebras with super rare polka dot fur
Instead of the traditional black and white striped color, the genetically mutated horse is brown with white spots all over its body.
The animal lives in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, a protected area of savannah in southwestern Kenya. It was discovered by a Maasai guide.
This tour guide named it after his last name – Tira. A few years ago there was a similar case, however, the zebra maintained its stripes and brush-like tail. But Tira is completely different with a completely polka dot color.
Tira’s particular color is said to be due to melanism, in which the pigment melanin – responsible for the dark color in the skin, hair and fur – has a higher incidence. For the same reason, Tira’s colors have been reversed.
Zebras often have stripes running around their back and legs, leaving a plain white belly where all the stripes merge. But Tira has a brown belly with polka dots and a plain brown back.
Zoology professor Jonathan Bard first described such a case in 1977, in which a horse also had a spotted coat pattern. The range of genetic mutations that lead to melanism can appear as distinctive patterns.
Zebras recognize each other by their markings, which are like human fingerprints. There are actually three species of zebra, each with distinct markings ranging from stripe patterns to what part of the body is covered. The stripes are said to be not for camouflage but instead a way to repel horsefly bites, which are both dangerous and annoying.
Tira may be more of a concern than other common zebras as it could make them an easier target for savannah-dwelling lions and hyenas.