Rare polka-dotted zebra foal photographed in Kenya

Tira, the newborn black zebra foal with polka-dots, stands out in a crowd. (Credit: Frank Liu / Frank Liu Photography, with kind permission.) FRANK LIU

A zebra foal with a dark coat and white polka dots has been spotted in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, National Geographic reports.

Photographer Frank Liu was on the search for rhinos recently when he noticed the eye-catching plains zebra, likely about a week old. “At first glance he looked like a different species altogether,” Liu says. Antony Tira, a Maasai guide who first spotted the foal, named him Tira.

National Geographic spoke with HudsonAlpha Faculty Investigator Greg Barsh, MD, PhD, about how the zebra got its spots. Barsh studies the genetics of color variation.

“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 Barsh.

Read the full story from National Geographic and coverage from and

Click here to read National Geographic’s story about “Pinky” the dolphin. Barsh explains how this rare pink dolphin got its color.