Photographer Frank Liu has posted a video of an unusual creature – a zebra foal with a dark coat and white polka dots. Anthony Tira, a tour guide and photographer who named the foal Tira told Daily Nation, a Kenyan newspaper. “At first I thought it was a zebra that had been captured and painted or marked for purposes of migration. I was confused when I first saw it.”.
Tira’s unique polka dots are believed to be due to a genetic mutation named pseudomelanism. Reg Larison, a biologist at University of California, Los Angeles told National Geographic that pseudomelanism can cause abnormalities in zebra stripe patterns. While similar foals have been seen in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, this may be the first in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, Liu told National Geographic.
Scientists have long debated why zebras have stripes, or what purpose they serve. This study suggests that the stripes help avert biting flies. Disguising some horses as zebras, the researchers found that while flies approach all animals, something about the striped coat dazzles them and drives them away once they get too close. So Tira may in fact be susceptible to a lot more of transmittable diseases than her striped cousins.