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Africa Geographic Travel

Earlier this month a traveller came across this newborn black zebra in the north-western area of the Okavango Delta. The rather unusual dark colour is due to a small genetic abnormality linked to the amount of melanin affecting the pigmentation of the fur.

black zebra
© Michael Fitt
black zebra
© Michael Fitt

There have been at least three other dark zebras born like this in the area; however, none of them has reached more than six months old, with the last foal born of this kind facing its demise to hyenas within a few months.

Unfortunately, if you stand out from the crowd, you are a target. Due to other abnormalities of this nature some scientist’s claim that zebra’s stripes are formed from the inhibition of melanin and that the “default” colour of a zebra is black. In other words, a zebra is black with white stripes.

This black zebra is an example of what is known as ‘malinism’, which results in excess of dark pigmentation. Melanism is found in many different species, including amphibians, reptiles, and mammals – but not in humans. Pseudo-melanism, also called abundism, is another variant of pigmentation, characterised by dark spots or enlarged stripes, which cover a large part of the body of the animal, making it appear melanistic. One example of abundism is the ‘king’ cheetah.

Also read The black and white of African wildlife explained

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