April 21st, 2013 by James Ayre
Have you ever seen a Golden Zebra? If you haven’t, then it’s a good thing that you’ve found your way here, because they are awesome, as the pictures make clear. The term Golden Zebra refers alternately either to: an albino zebra, an amelanistic zebra, or as a type of zebroid known as a Zorse, all of which have been called golden zebras by various people/news agencies.
Zebroid is the term used for the offspring of a zebra and any other member of an equine species, whether a horse or a donkey. The zebroid type that has occasionally been referred to as a golden zebra is the zorse, which is the offspring of a male zebra and a female horse. While they are certainly interesting looking (to those of us used to only seeing horses and zebras), they look very different from the albino/amelanistic zebras that are also often referred to as golden zebras.
And so now moving on to the others, what’s the difference between an albino and an amelanistic zebra? In common usage, there isn’t one. When someone refers to an amelanistic animal they are usually referring to the same thing that someone referring to an albino animal is: an animal without the ability to produce the pigments that are commonly seen in the other individuals of the species. With regards to mammals, the only pigments present are melanins, so without those an individual will be an albino. The term albino generally refers to an organism without the ability to produce any pigment at all, while an albinoid is an organism that produces a diminished quantity, but isn’t completely lacking in pigment.
I hope that all of this was interesting to read, and helped to clarify the differences between the different “golden zebras”.
As a side note, zebras are often thought of as being very common animals, in no immediate danger of extinction, but this isn’t entirely true. Many species and subspecies of zebras are currently endangered, and some have already previously come very close to extinction, and now have the very limited genetic diversity to show for it. And some species have already gone extinct, in particular, the quagga. The species that are currently endangered are Grévy’s zebra and the mountain zebra.
The causes of decline are the same as with nearly any other large animal in recent times: over hunting, habitat loss, and encroaching human populations. Because of these activities, it’s possible that in the not too-distant future that zebras will be extinct, much like the unicorn Elasmotherium. And yes, you read that correctly, the unicorn was a real animal.
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