A Horse of a Different Color?

Happy Tuesday, Friends!

Or rather – I mean a zebra of another color, er stripe! While reading back issues of Smithsonian Magazine, I came across this adorable picture of a baby zebra, here.

Photo Credit: (courtesy of Frank Liu )

This little zebra girl, named Tira, has spots, instead of the usual stripes. Her condition is caused by a genetic condition called “pseudomelanism.”

So, what is that, you may ask? Melanism refers to black pigment and is the increased development of the dark-colored pigment melanin in the skin or hair.  We all have melanin – to some degree or another.

Zebras are actually dark-skinned animals, and their distinctive pattern of stripes arise from specialized skin cells called melanocytes, which transfer this pigment into some of their hairs – making them appear black. The white hair does not have this dark pigment, of course.  The theory of why zebras actually have the stripes range from protection to predators, to that they help regulate temperature, to even that it confuses biting flies.

However – back to the matter at hand:

Pseudomelanism, also called abundism, is another variant of pigmentation, identifiable by dark spots, which cover a large part of the body of the animal instead of in stripes, in this case resulting in Tira’s unusual, but cute spots.

Ain’t science and nature great?

1 Comment

  1. Jean De Muzio

    Tira sure is cute! Thanks for the blog.

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