A Comparison of Wild and Keep Breeding Populations: an Introduction to Colour Variants

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A Comparison of Wild and Keep Breeding Populations: an Introduction to Colour Variants

Post by fierfly567 »

A Comparison of Wild and Keep Breeding Populations: an Introduction to Colour Variants

Throughout history, there have been many attempts to find and cultivate rare colourations of common and not-so-common creatures. The people of Synara are well known for their textiles and craftsmanship, and have long been involved in the cultivation of Synaran Aericorns and Gemstone Kirin, both of which are known for their beautiful colours as well as their practical use. [Synara: Commerce and Cultivation (2015), Official Pedigree Records: MDCCXLII - MDCCC]
Magi too have been known for their crossbreeding of Gryphons with Phoenix to produce an elemental alignment to further their studies in magic. [Journal Alignment: Companion Alignments (2023)] Today it is so common to see Fire Gryphons and Lunar Hippogryphs on the grounds of the Keep that it is easy to forget that these creatures aren’t found naturally in the wild at all.

In this essay, I will give a brief overview of some of the studies being done on the grounds of the Keep regarding managed breeding, and the comparisons between the outcomes of those studies and of those done on wild populations.

Albinism is a genetic variation that leads to a creature being partially or entirely white. This is a natural occurrence, but one that is rarely found in the wild due to the lack of natural camouflage making them less likely to survive to adulthood, whether by increased predation or reduced chances of catching prey.

Albino Minirrells - so called Arkenian for their snow-white fur - are one of the many creatures frequently found at the Keep but rarely in the wild. They are most consistently bred as crossbreeds from the two Minirrell species, Razan and Silvan, and there are theories that the albino allele is from one of these populations where it remains recessive, and that upon crossbreeding become active. This is based on studies into the few reports of pale Minirrells amongst wild populations, that upon capture of the Minirrell in question, appear to show physical similarities not native to the region, implying the introduction of a foreign species into the wild population. [Journal Nature: Phenotype differences in wild Populations of Minirrell (2019), Silvan Biodiversity Report (2022), Razan Biodiversity Report (2022), Review of ‘Arkenian Minirrell (2009)’ (2014) ]

Pegasus, for all their fame, are shy and rarely seen in the wild. Their natural grazing lands are far into the mountains where they prefer isolated groves to more populated areas, making the capture of wild specimens extremely difficult and dangerous. Due to this, there have been numerous programs to breed pegasus in more urban environments, with much success. Pedigrees and Families of Pegasus are amongst some of the oldest and most well regarded of breeding lines. Pegasi from these lines are usually of a much more even temperament than their wild cousins, and much more accepting of a rider. [Wild and Domesticated Pegasi (2017)]
As Dark Pegasus are mainly nocturnal and the White diurnal, the two species rarely intermix despite them frequently sharing pasture. Because of this, crossbreeding pegasus is usually a human-facilitated match with the aim of producing the lesser-known Pinto Pegasus. [Breeding Pegasi, Interview with Stablemaster Bright (2018)]
In normal circumstances, the offspring of these two species will favour one parent or the other, but the Pinto Hybrids display pied colouration of which there is no substantial evidence of appearing amongst wild populations - however, the study does note that the difficulty in finding Pegasus herds makes it rare to see juveniles at all. [Metastudy of Pinto (2019), Mountain Pass Biodiversity Report (2022)]

Amongst all the programs here at the Keep, there is a dedicated group of Magi focused on the rescue and rehabilitation of injured wildlife. Those that cannot be released back into the wild are frequently adopted by local people, creating a consistent population of creatures that otherwise would not have survived, and of these, albinos in particular frequently find new homes.
This is the main reason that Keep bred Eshmeri are more likely to produce albino offspring than their wild cousins, the Heartthrob Eshmeri, a 2022 study suggests. [Keep Practices and the influence on the Surrounding Lands, (2022)] It goes on to say that these rehabilitation programs may play a much larger part in why breeding programs at the Keep seem to be so much more successful that those in other areas - there are simply more surviving albinos to contribute to the gene pool.
This is in contrast to older theories that suggest that the higher ambient magic in the area influences colouration, especially in regards to Pinks, like the aforementioned Heartthrob Eshmeri. [Valentine Pink: A Treatise on Wild Magic (1932), Journal Nature: Rare Variation (1989)]
There is still no conclusive evidence as to whether this Pink Eshmeri is a rare colour variation or a direct effect from wild magic [Review: ‘Case Study of Pink Eshmeri (2008)’ (2018)], only that no Magi has ever managed to breed a Pink from two natural Eshmeri and managed to write it down.

Those who breed Charubi have sometimes found that the offspring may have pink colouration. This is unlike Eshmeri, where Pinks cannot be bred from natural colours. Despite this, it is still highly rare in the wild, but unlike Albinism, ranger’s reports show very few juvenile Pinks, a strange coincidence that leads some to theorise that it may be due to the conditions that the Keep Charubi are being kept in [Charubi in Captivity, (2021)]. Some suggest higher quality and consistency of food, better health or lower stress, but studies struggle to find consistent results due to the ethical concerns of intentionally harming creatures to induce stress.[Ethics of Keep Herds for Study Purposes, (2022)]

Mohlaris Elephants also display a pink colouration fairly commonly - about half of all Keep-bred offspring are pink. Like the Charubi, they are rare in the wild but based on breeding records [Tetzcotal Biodiversity Report (2022)], a suggested 20% of all wild Mohlaris Elephants should be Pink [Keep Biodiversity Report (2022)]. The researchers suggest that this is because Blue and Pink Mohlaris struggle to create offspring together, despite Pink Mohlaris being just as common in the first generation [Case Study of Mohlaris Herd #12-#43 (2012)]. As females tend to stay together in family groups, any male they encounter is most likely blue and so offspring would be rarer with a Pink than another Blue; in scenarios where the males are pink, the chances of finding another pink Mohlaris are low enough that a male Pink may never reproduce. This is combined with the fact that Mohlaris are very slow breeders - each female may produce a third as many offspring in her lifetime than other similarly sized creatures [Journal Nature: Mass in relation to Fertility (2019)].

Sarvain are naturally pink - the Black Sarvain were first described around Valentines, and for a long while there were believed to be alternately coloured due to the same phenomena that colours the Eshmeri [Journal Nature: Rare Variation (1989)]. In recent years there have been deeper studies [Journal Alignment: The Study of Life (2022), Wild Magics: Unaligned Elements? (2023)] into the effects of life magic, and it has led to greater understanding of its effect on wildlife. This has led to a review of the Black Sarvain as being an artificial colouration, and modern evidence suggests that the Valentine’s Black Sarvain may merely be a Melanistic variant. Melanism, like albinism, is caused by a genetic mutation affecting colouration. Whilst albinism causes a loss of colour, those affected by melanism often appear vastly darker. It is not just a natural colouration difference, like a black Borean Wolf, but a rare condition - rare enough to make Albinism look common [White and Black: an Overview (1999)].

The only other creature known to be confirmed Melanistic is the Cervinus Deer - which is well known for producing both albino and melanistic offspring rarely but consistently. Both Black and White Cervinus Deer have been reported in wild populations with equal rates to those bred in Keep herds, although captive herds have a much lower fertility averaging at one successful mating for three in the wild. [Cervinus in Captivity (2014)]
However, unlike most creatures, the Cervinus deer appears to have a third variation - the Piebald. Like a Pinto Pegasus, it sports a splotchy colouration, but unlike the Pinto, this colouration is achieved in breeding a White Cervinus Deer with a naturally coloured one. Due to the difficulties faced by breeding programs, less than two thousand Piebald Cervinus have successfully been bred, but estimates show that there may be far more than that in wild populations [Keep Breeding Report: Cervinus Deer (2022), Mountain Pass Biodiversity Report (2022)].

There have been many studies into the specifics of breeding as to try and increase chances of rarer colours, and more specifically, why the colouration only shows up in the offspring of White deer. One suggests that the piebald gene may be carried in the White, but only shows up when crossbreeding back to Natural, making the Piebald a White with Natural marks [Journal Nature: Genetic Inheritance (2017)]. Other theories say that it may be a form of Neoteny [Peter Pan Syndrome: Introduction into Neoteny (2009)] (as juvenile Deer have spots which are lost in adulthood). Those in favour of this theory believe either that the additional albino alleles from a White Deer may colour their spots even after they have faded, or prevent the fading all together. Recent evidence [Phenotype Comparison Between Variant Colours in Cervinus Deer (2021)] points away from that theory, though, as close examination of the Piebald Cervinus Deer shows more spots on average and in more places than a Natural juvenile.

The effect of lifestyle on the coloration of offspring in a population is unique to every species, and so must be treated on a case by case basis. Attempts to create unified theories are well meaning but often short sighted and are quickly disproved by case studies. Every year, we discover new creatures and new variations of those we are familiar with, and again, our theories must change with them.

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