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A lilac gerbil is groomed by a black as a spotted golden agouti stands by
A Rex mutation may have appeared in Poland. More information here.
This page is intended to provide raw genetic information. please follow the following two links if you need help in applying it.
If you are a complete beginner than first read this excellent guide to Rodent Genetics?
If you need more advice on how to apply the information on this page to your own gerbil breeding then have a look at The Applied Gerbil Coat Colour Genetics Page.
It is important to remember that gerbils only produce two colours of pigment in their fur. Black (eumelanin) which can also appear grey or brown, and Yellow (phaeomelanin) which can also appear red. All the colours of gerbils are produced with these two pigments, or by the absence of pigment. The wild colour of the gerbil, known as Golden Agouti, is caused by the hairs of the upper surface being basically black with a yellow band, and the hairs of the belly being black but with little pigment along most of the length of the hair. If you part the hair of the back you will see the hairs are black at the base and the tip, but yellow along the shaft. On the belly you will see something similar with black bases and white or grey shafts and tips.
Throughout the following the symbols used in the Scientific Literature are used.
The following loci are known to exist in gerbils:
A - The Agouti Locus which controls the white belly and ticking.
C - The Albino Locus which controls the overall level of colour produced.
D - The Dilute Locus which controls the depth of colour.
E - The Extension Locus which controls the balance between black and yellow pigment in the coat.
G - The Grey Locus which controls the intensity of yellow and black in the coat.
P - The Pink-Eye Dilution Locus which controls eye colour and whether the coat is lightened.
Sp - The Spotting Locus. This controls white spotting and by default is not referred to unless a gerbil is spotted.
The general effect of gene at each locus in order of dominance is:
(+) indicates that this is the gene normally found in the wild-type. NB, Non-Spotting has not been officially allocated a symbol.
Pictures of many of the colours produced by these genes can be seen at The Gerbil Colour Palette Page.
The scientific literature that this information is based on is available. Additional information on the E and C loci has been worked out by and the Gerbil Genetics Group (GGG). The GGG can be contacted through
The following table sets out the likely genetics of the colours recognised by the NGS.
- indicates that any gene symbol can be at that location.
* these are only four of the many ways of producing these white gerbils by combining diluting genes.
NB. These are the standard genotypes. It is possible to produce the some of these colours with different genotypes. Not all versions of a genotype given above will necessarily look alike. For example a Pearl with cchmcchm will apear darker than one with cchmch. There are also other colours which are either not standardised by the NGS and/or for which the genotypes are not yet fully understood. There is a much fuller treatment of all the colours at The Gerbil Colour Palette.
Any of these colours (except for the totally white ones,) can have white spots or patches. If the gerbil is so marked it has Sp gene. This gene is dominant so patched + non patched produces patched and non patched. Breeding non-spotted gerbils together will never produce white spotted gerbils. Because SpSp is fatal breeding two spotted gerbils together will produce 25% fewer young and the rest will be 2/3rds spotted and 1/3rd non-spotted.
Although the gene causing white spotting has been designated Sp by scientists, they have not named the normal wild-type gene that non-spotted gerbils have. So it is therefore technically incorrect to refer to gerbils as being Spsp or spsp. Instead, it is more proper to use the symbol +. The normal wild gerbil is therefore ++ at the spotting locus and spotted gerbils are Sp+. In practise it is easier and makes as much sense to refer to spotted animals as Sp and leave the locus blank for non-spotted gerbils.
The amount of spotting is probably controlled partly by several modifying genes. In addition, non-genetic factors almost certainly affect the amount of white spotting. There are pictures showing the range of white spotting.
Here are some examples of some genotypes and the colours they will produce:
A photo taken in 1968 of the first Sp gerbils sent to Eric Jukes and Tony Jones (England) by Frank Lane (Canada)
Because the genetics of coat colour in other rodents and lagomorphs is so well studied it is possible to speculate about other genes that have not appeared in gerbils but will probably do so. These include several mutations that are sometimes reported but whose existence in gerbils needs to be properly established. This is not a complete list, there are probably hundreds of possibilities, but this list includes the most likely mutations to appear in the near future.
As well as new colour mutations there are some mutations of hair structure that may arise. These are:
All the species of gerbil kept in captivity are a shade of agouti normal in wild rodents. However, two species, The Fat-Tailed Gerbil and The Shaw's Jird have demonstrated mutations which are displayed on their own pages. White spotting similar to that in Shaw's Jirds may have appeared in Sundervall's Jirds and in Bushy-tailed Jirds.
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Last updated 14 September 2009