Home / Funny / Animals / A Rare Zebra Born With Spots Instead Of Stripes


There's an old saying that "a zebra doesn't change its stripes," but what happens when it doesn't have any stripes at all? Although instantly recognisable by their distinctive black and white striped pattern, zebras can actually take on a different appearance. This became even clearer after a lovely spotted foal was recently spotted in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve. 

 It's impossible not to hum, "One of these things isn't like the other" when watching a precocious zebra mixing  with  adults. The newborn was named Tira after Maasai leader Anthony Tira, who first showed him. Pictures taken by photographer Frank Liu, who was in search of rhinos at the reserve, have  gone viral. Liu himself was stunned when he first met Tira, who he believed to be from a different species since the foal has no stripes.

While this is not the first time spotted zebras have been spotted (one was also reported in 1977), it is extremely rare and may be the first official sighting in the Masai Mara . So what makes this unusual look so special? Tira and people like him have a genetic mutation called pseudomelanism. This creates anomalies in the stripe pattern. 

Zebras usually have an even distribution of specialised cells called melanocytes. These cells produce melanin, which gives hair and skin its colour. In the case of zebras, they are black, so shaving them off will give them that colour. The white stripes remain a  mystery, but they are believed to help ward off predators. 

In Tira's case, Greg Barsh, a geneticist at the Hudson-Alpha Institute of Biotechnology, told National Geographic that while the melanocytes are fine, for some reason the melanin doesn't show up in streaks. Unfortunately, zebras with these anomalies often don't live long. Stripes not only help zebras camouflage themselves from predators, but also  help repel insects and regulate body temperature. All of this means that a zebra without stripes will have a harder time coping with the demands of life in the wild.

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