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Rare Polka-Dotted Zebra Foal Photographed In Kenya

2019-9-28 17:14| 发布者: hujian| 查看: 34| 评论: 0

摘要:   Talk about a horse of another colour—a zebra foal with a dark coat and white polka dots has been spotted in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve.  Photographer Frank Liu was on the search for r ...

  



Talk about a horse of another colour—a zebra foal with a dark coat and white polka dots has been spotted in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve.

  Photographer Frank Liu was on the search for rhinos recently when he noticed the eye-catching plains zebra, likely about a week old. “At first glance he looked like a different species>

  Zebra stripes are as unique as fingerprints, but Tira’s odd colouration could be the first recorded observation in the Masai Mara, according to Liu. Similar foals have been seen in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

  Tira and these other foals have a condition called pseudomelanism, a rare genetic mutation in which animals display some sort of abnormality in their stripe pattern, says Ren Larison, a biologist studying the evolution of zebra stripes at the University of California, Los Angeles.

  Zebras also experience other unusual colour variations, such as partial albinism, which was seen in an extremely rare "blond" zebra photographed earlier this year in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.

  Keeping track of such equine aberrations is useful to science as part of a broader goal to monitor changes in species and how they’re managed by local communities.

    View this post on Instagram         

  ?? Tira - The Odd One @natgeo @natgeowild @natgeoyourshot

  A post shared by Frank Liu (@frankliuphotography) on

Sep 14, 2019 at 4:25am PDT

Showing their stripes

  Specialised cells called melanocytes produce melanin, the red, yellow, brown, or black pigment that determines hair and skin cell colour in mammals.

  “There are a variety of mutations that can disturb the process of melanin synthesis, and in all of those disorders, the melanocytes are believed to be normally distributed, but the melanin they make is abnormal,” Greg Barsh, a geneticist at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, says by email.

  In zebras, melanocytes are uniformly distributed throughout their skin, so that a shaved zebra would be completely black. In the case of Tira and other pseudomelanistic zebras, Barsh believes the melanocytes are all there, but the melanin itself, for some reason, does not manifest correctly as stripes.

  Tira walks through Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve with her mother in a recent photograph.

  PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANK LIU

  Tira’s future is likely uncertain—most zebras with such unusual colouration probably don’t survive long, Larison notes. “Research on other species has shown that, while it is harder for a predator to target an individual in a group, it is easier if an individual is different,” she says. (Read about a rare white giraffe and other unusually pale animals.)

  “I have seen several photos of foals with this specific pattern over the years, but only one photo—from the ‘50s—in which the individual was either a juvenile or adult.”

Hurdles to survival

  Unfortunately for Tira, recent research by Larison and others has suggested that zebra stripes evolved to deter against biting flies—one of five theories that have been posed over the years, along with camouflage and temperature regulation. Experiments in the field, for instance, have shown that biting flies don't like landing on striped surfaces.

FollowVideoWhy Is This Zebra Unusually Pale?Zebras are best known for their distinctive black and white stripes. We are still learning about why this bold colour scheme has evolved over time, but this rare zebra has an unusually pale look of its very own. It has a condition called leucism, which causes its "blonde" colouring. Unlike albinism, leucistic animals are not completely white, can produce some pigment, and may even develop normal colouring as they age.loading...

  Zebras are best-known for their distinctive black and white stripes, but why is this zebra so pale? Hint: It's not an albino.

  If that’s the case, Tira won’t be as successful at repelling these flies—which can carry diseases like equine influenza—as a normally striped zebra, notes Tim Caro, a biologist at the University of California, Davis. (See a photograph of a rare black leopard photographed in Africa.)

  However, if Tira can survive these many hurdles and make it to adulthood, there’s no reason to think he can’t fit into the herd.

  Research conducted in South Africa has found that in two cases of plains zebras with aberrant colouring, at least, the animals formed normal>

  Follow Katie Stacey on Twitter.

Lead Image: Tira, the spotted zebra foal, may be more susceptible to biting flies without the zebra's trademark stripes.

  PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANK LIU



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