If you had to define a zebra, one of the first things you’d probably say is that it has stripes. But one baby zebra in Kenya has spots instead.
Wildlife photographer Frank Liu captured pictures of the unique baby zebra in Masai Mara National Reserve in southwestern Kenya. The zebra’s lack of stripes is the striking result of an incredibly rare genetic mutation. It’s so rare that, Frank says, the zebra may be the first of his kind in the region.
“Last night a Maasai guide discovered an one of a kind genetically mutated baby zebra in Maasai Mara and named it after his surname – Tira,” Frank wrote. “This morning we were one of the first ones to visit Tira! Few years ago there was a similar case, however that zebra still maintained the stripes and brush-like tail. Tira, however, has patterns that appear as polka dots!”
In addition to sporting spots instead of stripes, Tira also has the opposite coloring of most zebras. Instead of black stripes on a white coat, he has white spots on a dark coat.
Tira was about a week old when Frank spotted him.
“At first glance he looked like a different species altogether,” he said.
Tira’s condition may be rare, but it’s not completely unheard of. Similar foals have been spotted in Botswana. Their coloring is the result of a condition called psuedomelanism, which National Geographic calls “a rare genetic mutation in which animals display some sort of abnormality in their stripe pattern.”
Zebra stripes are there for a reason — scientists think they provide camouflage in the wild and help repel biting flies. Still, Tira’s spots are pretty cute!