So what’s the deal with leucism?
Are all white reindeer leucistic?
Are all leucistic reindeer deaf?
How is leucism passed on?
How is leucism different to Albinism?
These are questions I have pondered while fixing the boardwalk, closely accompanied by Blue, our male leucistic reindeer. The subject of leucism is quite hotly debated and seems only those with a Doctorate in Pathology may comment, but here goes:
Leucism (pronounced loo-kiz-im) is a genetic peculiarity which gives a white colour. The condition is recessive. It is a defect in the skin, not the pigment cells. Leucistic animals are all perfectly white. It seems however that there are differing levels of the condition – partial and full.
One other characteristic of leucism is deafness, however is seems that this is not always the case. Leucism is developed during the early stages of embryonic development and can influence the central nervous system. It therefore most commonly affects sight and hearing.
If a condition is recessive it means that the offspring must receive the leucism gene from both parents to develop the condition. We have leucism in the herd. It doesn’t affect the carriers at all but if they breed with a carrier there is 25% chance that their offspring with have leucism. We currently have two leucistic Reindeer that are both deaf – Blue and Blondie.
Blondie’s(ll) father was Sirkas (Ll) and mother was Glacier(Ll) both carriers, therefore there was a 25% chance that Blondie was born with leucism. Glacier had nine calves of which only one was born with leucism but of course several carriers.
Blue’s(ll) father is Lego who had leucism (ll), Blue’s mother is Lulu who was a carrier (Ll). There was therefore 50% chance that Blue would be born with leucism.
Albinism is a total deficiency of melanin producing cells in the skin. It is a skin mutation. There is a total lack of pigment. Albino animals have pink/red eyes. The pigment (colour) that would normally be seen in our eyes is missing so the blood vessels behind are seen in the eye, given the appearance that the eye is red in colour.
As I do not have a Doctorate in anything (except drinking tea) these are not comments but merely my interpretation of several articles written by Doctors of Science.