Mark Liu, a wildlife photographer, was in the Masai Mara National Reserve looking for rhinoceroses when he spotted foal with the rare coat. He suspected that it was around a week or so old, according to National Geographic.
“At first glance, he looked like a different species altogether,” Liu said, the National Geographic reported.
Liu, the wildlife photographer, said that throughout the entire visit, the rare zebra kept to his mother’s side, according to News Hub.
Liu posted the photos that he took of the foal in a post on his Instagram.
“Last night a Maasai guide discovered a one-of-a-kind genetically mutated baby zebra… and named it after his surname—Tira,” Liu wrote, in the post. “This morning we were one the first ones to visit Tira!”
Liu shared in the post that there was a similar situation where a unique zebra was born, but he wrote that “the zebra still maintained the stripes and brush-like tail.” However, this polka-dotted zebra—Tira had a very different pattern that mimicked polka-dots.
According to National Geographic, the patterns on a zebra are very distinctive, and like human fingerprints, each zebra has a distinctive pattern that is unique to them. To have a rare pattern like Tira’s polka-dotted coat makes it the first recorded case of a zebra with such a distinctive coat pattern, National Geographic reported.
What Tira has is called pseudomelanism, a genetic mutation in animals that features abnormalities in the stripes, much like Tira’s. Additionally, Zebras may also exhibit another genetic mutation where they are born only partly patterned.
“There are a variety of mutations that can disturb the process of melanin synthesis, and in all of those disorders, the melanocytes are believed to be normally distributed, but the melanin they make is abnormal,” said Greb Barsh, one of the geneticist at the HusdonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, according to National Geographic.
As reported by the News Hub, zebras like Tira are rare—that means there’s a good chance that the young foal’s life would be short. It would have a less-than-normal life expectancy, according to the News Hub.
With this particular mutation, there is a chance that Tira would have a shorter life expectancy, according to News Hub. There would be many different hardships that this zebra would come across through growing up, according to the news outlet.