Published: 9 June 2014 at 10:07
Anglia Ruskin research shows that fur colour is caused by ‘faulty’ molecular switch
New research shows that a “faulty” switch coded in a squirrel’s DNA is the reason why some grey squirrels have black fur.
The research, led by Helen McRobie of Anglia Ruskin University and published by the journal FEBS Letters (Federation of European Biochemical Societies), reveals how a tiny molecular switch controls fur colour.
Grey squirrels inherit a normal pigment gene from both parents (genotype E+E+), while black squirrels inherit a gene with a missing piece from both parents (EB EB).
McRobie, Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science at Anglia Ruskin, said:
A similar mutation is found in the black jaguar and McRobie predicts that this is caused by the same thing – a broken molecular switch.
McRobie also leads the Black Squirrel Project, which is dedicated to recording sightings of black squirrels across the UK.The first black squirrel in the UK was spotted in Woburn, Bedfordshire in 1912 and 6,100 recordings, submitted by the public to the Black Squirrel Project over the last two years, show they have now spread as far as South West England, Wales and Southern Scotland.