Italian photographer Sergio Pitamitz took a photo of a pale zebra. It had golden stripes and is probably affected by a partial albinism. A small number of pale zebras live in captivity. They confirmed that at least one “golden” zebra also lives in nature.
In a quiet valley of Serengeti’s National Park in Tanzania, the Italian photographer Sergio Pitamitz was hoping to take pictures of zebras’ migration. Among dozens of animals moving slowly, he noticed something unusual: a clear spot.
“At first I thought it was a zebra that had rolled in the dust,”says Pitamitz.
As the animal dived into the water to drink he noticed the dust was not going away and started taking pictures.
The golden color zebra is probably affected by partial albinism. This condition is rarely observed in these animals. Several scientists, including Greg Barsh, a geneticist at the Hudson Alpha Institut for Biotechnology, confirmed that.
Partial albinism means that the animal has significantly less melanin than the average and stripes appear paler.
“We do not know anything about albinism in zebras”, explains Barsh.
Discovering these animals is so rare that we were certain of their existence only thanks to specimens in captivity”. Pitamitz’s photos “confirm that individuals with this particularity are able to survive in nature and that they are accepted by other zebras,” says Barsh.
Zebras are mostly recognized by the sound and smell and experts say it is not surprising that a golden zebra fits normally.
Thought of experts
If their social acceptance is not therefore in question, Barsh and Larison argue that it is possible these partially albino animals may have to face problems when it comes to defending themselves from flies.
The exact function of the stripes of their cloak is not yet clear. There are no certainties that they have a mimetic function. They serve to keep away stinging flies.
According to Tim Caro, who dealt extensively with the relationship between fly bites and zebra stripes gave his opinion. He said it is possible that a more faded color has a lower deterrent capacity than the darker one.
It is not clear exactly how dark stripes can keep flies away. The fact that there are so few “blond” zebras seems to indicate that this feature has its drawbacks, says Caro.