Your E-mail:
Where does your gerbil seem to most enjoy you petting him or her (if you have multiple gerbils or owned gerbils in the past, answer for the one you have owned the longest)?
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Mystery Genes

By Catya
Catya is a judge with the California Hamster Association. She shares her experiences in hamster ownership from a high school student's perspective.

Click image to enlarge
three hamsters in exercise wheel
The appearance of white-faced Roborovski hamsters was big news because it's the only color mutation known in this species.
white-faced Roborovski hamster
Photos Courtesy of Catya
Vespa is a female, white-faced Roborovski hamster.

Hello, everyone! Last time I told you about hamster breeding, and how I was waiting to see if my research would be accepted. Well, I have some good news to share with you. My abstract was accepted, and I present my research in February! In celebration, I’d like to tell you a bit about what I’m researching.

I told you how there’s only one color mutation in Roborovski hamsters so far: the white-faced gene. When this gene hit the scene, it was a big deal, because before that we had just the normal color. White-faced Roborovskis, as their name suggests, have a white face; the normal Roborovski hamsters have brown faces with white eyebrows. Hamster breeders determined that the white-faced gene was dominant, meaning a hamster only needs one copy of the gene to have a white face.

It can be tricky to breed Roborovskis. We don’t really know which seasons they prefer to breed in yet, and they can’t seem to decide! As a result, hamster breeders all had a hard time getting any litters. In fact, we almost lost the white-faced gene. After searching pet stores, however, we found several more white-faced females.

The first female, white-faced Roborovski hamster we found was my beloved Vespa, and she gave us quite a surprise! We expected that when we bred a white-faced Rob with a normal, at least half of the pups would be white-faced. Instead, Vespa’s children looked like normals, except for a white patch on their foreheads, which looked like the blaze some horses have. We were totally stumped.

When we bred the other female, white-faced Roborovski hamsters, we saw the same thing. All of their pups had the blaze, which made them adorable yet puzzling. It wasn’t until we bred a blaze Roborovski hamster to a blaze Roborovski hamster that a pattern emerged. It looked like this white-faced gene was recessive, despite our previous evidence that it was dominant. We wondered: was this a new gene, or had the white-faced gene actually been recessive?

Reading genetic research papers, talking to biology professors, and doing a few more breedings offered an alternate theory: the white-faced gene itself had mutated slightly. Now the gene was weaker, somewhere between dominant and recessive, and the hamster pups with one copy of the gene didn’t have a fully white face. Although I went through some frustration and head scratching to figure out what caused the blaze, it was fulfilling and well worth the mystery when the answers came. 

<< Read the Previous Entry                      
<< Back to blog home page


 Give us your opinion on
Mystery Genes

Submit a Comment   Join Club
Earn 1,000 points! What's this?

Complete Care Made Easy: Gerbils
Critters USA
Rabbits USA
Rabbits USA
Complete Care Made Easy: Ferrets
Ferrets USA
Top Products
d
 


Hi my name's Penelope

Visit the Photo Gallery to
cast your vote!