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The Dilute Gene
In 1997 gerbils being bred at Osnabruck University displayed a new gene that appears to be the long awaited dilute gene (symbol "d"). This gene is recessive and animals that are homozygous for it have less intense colouring. This is because the shape of the pigment granules within the hairs change and as a result light is reflected in a different way. This means that black pigment appears blue and yellow pigment appears cream. Black pigment is affected more than yellow pigment. The best known colour produced by the gene in other animals like rabbits and mice is the Blue (aadd). Blue animals are a deep blue/grey colour that is particularly attractive. Many other dilute colours will simply be a lighter version of the usual colour. Gerbils carrying the gene have been distributed to some breeders in Holland and Germany and pictures of some of the dilute gerbils produced by the four members of the Gerbil Genetics Group are on this page.
After a long wait, the dilute gerbils had been bred in sufficient numbers to eliminate any problems and to identify the effect of the gene in combination with all the other mutations. In April 2002 they were made available to breeders at the Dutch Knagerfestijn and are now being bred across North Western Europe. Of course they are still very rare.
Blue (aaC-ddE-G-P-) is a well known colour in other animals. For example, blue mice, rabbits and cats have been known for a long time. The Blue gerbil has a much lighter, and warmer coloured coat than the Slate. The nails are also very dark.
The Dilute Agouti (A-C-ddE-G-P-) appears very similar to the normal Golden Agouti. The main differences are the generally lighter colour, with lighter feet and with less obvious dark tickking in the coat. The lack of dark pigment on the ears gives an appearence very like that of an Argente Golden. The base of the fur, which is a very dark slate in Golden Agouti Gerbil is instead a vivid blue colour.
This Dilute Agouti shows the lighter ears and less pigmented feet of this genotype.
The dilute version of the Grey Agouti, known as Smoke (A-C-ddE-ggP-) once again superficially looks like a lighter version of the typical Grey Agouti. Detailed examination shows that like the Dilute Agouti it has noticably lighter ears and feet and a blueish undercoat.
The Smoke Gerbil
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Last updated 23 August 2003