This post first appeared on June 9, 2011
My friend Erin Corbett took these pictures of a splash overo camel at the Dierienpark Amersfoort in the Netherlands. Apparently this is the primary form of spotting found in camels. The resemblance to the pattern in horses is striking, down to the blue eyes, white tail end, and association with deafness.
This guy even has a white ear, which is sometimes seen in horses with the splash gene. The pattern – like the one in horse breeds that do not have sabino to complicate the picture – is remarkably consistent in appearance.
I have always found it interesting that so many colors and patterns appear in more than one species. As color genetics has shifted from the analysis of phenotype (which is what I do) to studies at the molecular level (where my understanding is still rather vague), the reasons for this make a little more sense. If a “mistake” in the coding creates a certain visual effect with one type of animal, it makes sense that when a similar mistake appears in another species, the result might look quite similar. It is hard to see this repeated again and again and not get the sense of a common heritage with our animal friends.
Update: This is one of the white patterns formally identified in camels in 2017. You can read the article (which is open access) here.