There is no doubt that zebras have the potential to be one of the cutest animal species in the entire animal kingdom; there is even less doubt that a newborn zebra would most surely succeed in winning our hearts if it had white patches.
In Kenya, a unique baby zebra with polka dots was discovered, and the internet didn’t take long to notice the remarkable find. The lovely critter has already won the hearts of many people, and images of it have gone viral on the internet.
In Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, a tour guide and photographer by the name of Antony Tira recently came across an unique foal. The colt stood out from the other horses in reserve thanks to its rich black coat that was speckled with white spots.
The photographer who found the zebra for the first time gave the young animal the name Tira. Tira tells Kenyan journalist George Sayagie, “At first, I believed it was a zebra that had been captured and painted or tagged for migration.” I initially believed it to be a zebra that had been painted or marked for migration purposes. “I was totally confused when I first saw it,” the person said.
According to Ren Larison, a biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who spoke with Katie Stacey from National Geographic, the animal appears to have a genetic condition referred to as “pseudomelanism.” This condition causes abnormalities in zebra stripe patterns and is passed down through generations. Zebras are dark-skinned animals whose stripes originate from specialized skin cells called melanocytes, which transport melanin into some of their hairs. The hairs that contain melanin appear black, and the hairs that do not have melanin appear white. On the other hand, sporadic instances in which something goes wrong, and the melanin does not form as stripes.
Greg Barsh, a geneticist at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, tells Stacey that many different mutations can disrupt the process of melanin synthesis. “In all those disorders, the melanocytes are believed to be normally distributed; however, the melanin they make is abnormal,” says Barsh.
Image credits: Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association