Can A Zebra Change Its Stripes?

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Good luck, Tira! You've surely earned your spots. (Courtesy of Frank Liu )

Health Editor’s Note:  When I first looked at the picture of this supposed zebra foal I immediately thought “Okapi.”  After looking at pictures of Okapi and this foal’s coloration pattern, I am willing to believe that this is indeed a zebra child with a melanin issue…..Carol

Spotted in Kenya: A Baby Zebra With Polka Dots

by Brigit Katz Smithsonian.com

With their striking black-and-white stripes, zebras boast one of the most iconic coats of the animal kingdom. But every now and then, a zebra is born that doesn’t fit the striped mold. At the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, a tour guide and photographer named Antony Tira recently caught sight of an unusual foal, its deep black coat covered with white spots.

“At first I thought it was a zebra that had been captured and painted or marked for purposes of migration,” Tira tells George Sayagie of the Daily Nation, a Kenyan newspaper. “I was confused when I first saw it.”

The baby zebra, which has been named Tira, in fact has a genetic condition known as “pseudomelanism,” which causes abnormalities in zebra stripe patterns, as Ren Larison, a biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, explains to Katie Stacey of National Geographic. Zebras are dark skinned animals, and their stripes arise from specialized skin cells called melanocytes, which transfer melanin into some of their hairs; the hairs that have melanin appear black, and those that do not appear white. But on rare occasions, something goes awry and the melanin does not manifest as stripes.

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