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Extraordinary mutation of Thompson's gazelle - or fake?

25/08/2010 09:05:53

Very strange looking Thompson's gazelle. Photo copyright Paolo Torchio

Mutation or fake?
August 2010. If it was April 1st, we wouldn't have been surprised by this story, but in August? These images appear to show a Thompson's gazelle that has been bred by crossing a gazelle with a goat or even a Scottie dog. We were immediately suspicious of the authenticity of the pictures as they seem just to extraordinary. 


We have looked carefully at the images, and there are no signs of any alterations that we can see, and there is nothing to suggest that the image has been played with in any way. Additionally, Paolo Torchio, who took the photo, is a well known and well respected photographer, so we can only conclude that this is simply a strange mutation or some sort. Sometimes nature does create oddities. Two headed snakes, while very unusual, are occasionally seen, and there are well documented cases of animals with extra legs, heads and eyes and other unusual mutations. They are more common where there are some environmental causes, often caused by humans, such as mercury poisoning.  We can only conclude that this gazelle is just an unusual one, and that Mr Torchio has had one of those rare moments that every photographer would love, a slice of luck.

If you have any images of similar unusual animals, birds, fish or anything else from the natural world, please do email to us at editor @

The photographer, Paolo Torchio, (click here to go to his website) was
born in Italy but moved to Kenya 20 years ago, where he has made his
name as a photographer and a conservationist.    
Photo credit Paolo Torchio.

Mutations and oddities
The most well know 'oddities' in the animal world are unusual, or lack of, colour displayed by some animals. Often classed as Albinos, this can occur across a wide range of species, though it is often not albinism but leucism.

Types of colour mutation 
Click here to see our gallery of albino and leucistic animals and birds.
A white fallow deer in the Forest of Dean.
Photo credit Robin Ward.
Leucism (or Leukism)
Leucism is a very unusual condition whereby the pigmentation cells in an animal or bird fail to develop properly. This can result in unusual white patches appearing on the animal, or, more rarely, completely white creatures. 

Albinism is a different condition. The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is that in albinism the eyes are usually pink or red, and albinism affects the entire animal, not just patches. This occasionaly causes very excited biologists to think they have discovered a new species, when in fact leucism is the cause of the unusual markings they have seen. 

Birds can show this condition in one of two ways: either there is an excess of yellow in the plumage or the yellow replaces another colour (in this instance the red). The condition has been reported in a number of species, including other species of woodpecker (in North America), and in many instances the colour replaced is red. 

Our thanks to Wildlife Direct as the source of this story. 


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