By Erica Greathouse
At the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, in the Brooks Equine Genetic Lab, a team of graduate and undergraduate students, as well as a Ph.D. student, overseen by Dr. Samantha Brooks, a specialist in equine genetics, are working together to determine the genetic makeup specific to horses with the rabicano coat pattern. Rabicano, also referred to as “ticking” or “skunk tail,” is a white pattern that can vary in its expression from a small frosting of color over the tail to a roan appearance. The genetic cause of this color is still unknown. In order to start to identify the genetic cause of the rabicano gene, the entire genome sequence of two horses, one rabicano and one non-rabicano, will be taken to attempt to identify the area on the genome responsible for the expressed rabicano color, which is hypothesized to be a dominant trait.
Third-year Ph.D. student and veterinarian, Laura Patterson Rosa, a self-proclaimed “lover of the study of genetics,” is at the helm of this study along with Dr. Brooks. “Equine genetics research is so fascinating to me. I enjoy the challenge of understanding the molecular biology that makes horses what they are,” she says. Rosa enjoys the challenge of putting genetic pieces together, one study at a time. The interest in this particular study stemmed from both curiosity and the inherent popularity of this unique coat pattern. “We have noticed that rabicano horses tend to be very popular and reach higher bidding prices in our annual auction,” explains Rosa. Within the herd at the University of Florida, they have a few horses that display the rabicano coat pattern, and they became interested in trying to isolate the genes responsible for rabicano coloring.Click here to read the complete article