Beautiful white giraffe and white calf

Since both mom and calf are white, and the chance she mated with another white giraffe are low, this is probably a dominant form of whiteness. It’s not albinism, which is recessive, nor do the animals have the pink eyes of albinos. It could be leucism, which stops the migration of pigment-containing cells into the skin, though most cases of leucism I’ve seen still show some vestige of color or pattern. I won’t speculate about the mutation except to guess that it’s dominant, and has resulted in two lovely giraffes. I hope they don’t become targets for hunters!

And the YouTube information:

White giraffe spotted by Hirola rangers in the hirola’s geographic range, North Eastern Kenya.

16 Comments

  1. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Lovely!

  2. justspewing
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Huh, Mom has 2 copies of recessive gene, dad is not white but has 1 copy of recessive Gene. Baby Giraffe gets recessive from both parents and is white. That seems to me the most likely explanation??

    • Posted September 18, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know why that’s any more likely than a dominant gene, but yes, that’s a plausible alternative. The reason I find it a bit less plausible is that the recessive gene has to be in fairly high frequency to get a homozygous recessive female mating with a putatively unrelated heterozygous male.

      As far as I can determine, leucism can be either dominant or recessive. In fact, we’re not sure that this is leucism, though it’s certainly not albinism.

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted September 18, 2017 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        I had the same thought as justspewing – presumably not a real name 🙂

        I don’t know much about giraffe family structure (OK, I don’t know anything about it) but I wonder how “unrelated” individuals living in the same geographical area might be? It seems plausible that she hooked up with a cousin or some such. Presumably, giraffe coloration has some selective advantage that would be lost if they were all plain white. Hence I was skeptical about the dominant gene hypothesis. As you note either hypothesis might fit, data would be a nice.

        • Ralph
          Posted September 18, 2017 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

          A fitness penalty for white coloration doesn’t necessarily imply anything about dominance. If white giraffes have not been seen in this area before, it could be a recently arising recessive mutation with a lot of inbreeding going on; or a dominant mutation arising de novo in this female.

  3. Liz
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    These are so beautiful.

  4. Posted September 18, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Wow, they are stunning. Hope the calf grows up.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 18, 2017 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      So do I.
      But realistically, there’s a pretty good chance that both of them are going to grow up to be rugs on some trophy “hunter”‘s floor.

      • Richard Bond
        Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:11 am | Permalink

        There are two points that give some hope that these can survive. The report mentions “rangers”, so:

        1) This implies that the animals are in a reserve, so no hunting is allowed. (of course, the giraffes might stray out of the reserve; I have seen plenty of giraffes in Kenya outside reserves.)

        2) Rangers are heavily armed, and can and do shoot armed poachers on sight.

        It is encouraging the the mother survived to adulthood.

  5. Patrick Wynne
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    “It could be leucism, which stops the migration of pigment-containing cells into the skin, though most cases of leucism I’ve seen still show some vestige of color or pattern.”

    I see pattern in their necks and some on the body of the calf.

    • starskeptic
      Posted September 18, 2017 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

      ..as do I…

  6. Posted September 18, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    In cattle, there’s a “Charlais white” gene that’s dominant and supresses pigment production. There’s also a “shorthorn white” gene that’s co-dominant with red or black, producing roan cattle. And there are recessive albino genes. White color in ungulates can have multiple genetic origins.

  7. rickflick
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I think I can see a faint patterning. It’s strongest in the neck and the young one is a little more prominent. Or do I suffer from pareidolia?

  8. Posted September 18, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful

  9. Bill Morrison
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    How long will giraffes remain in existence if humans decide that the mutant forms are so “lovely”, “beautiful” and “stunning”? I hope that the zoos and nature preserves will not fill up with them at the expense of the ones produced by natural selection. Consider Bos primigenius, the so-called aurochs. It only exists in numerous domesticated forms. There are people who have been struggling for nearly a century to “breed back” to the wildtype with only a little success.

  10. FA
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe you’d publicly say white giraffes are more beautiful than giraffes of colour!

    Hat tip to previous post. :p


%d bloggers like this: