Archive for March, 2013

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I’m still posting from War’s End. The castaways have managed a shelter of sorts, but it is now pouring rain. Coralie is trying to figure out what they can expect in the way of weather, and Audi has just told her that they can probably expect a lot of rain.

Star-forming region, Hubble“Time of day?” Coralie prompted, but Audi just looked at her. “Back home,” she clarified, “we’d have summer thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening, but they’d clear up by morning. Roi said that was because thunderstorms need the sun to heat the ground. Is it the same way here? If it stops raining by morning, I think we ought to try to construct a better shelter. Madame Irela, could you take care of Michelle for a bit so I can work?”

Kelty nodded. “You probably know more about wilderness living than the rest of us together, even though this isn’t quite the same wilderness you’re used to. Audi’s our Maung specialist, and Ginger’s a doctor.”

An inventory of knowledge is indeed as important as an inventory of supplies. What other knowledge do they have? And is it enough?

This post is part of the Weekend Writing Warriors blog circle, a group of authors who post no more than 8 sentences of their work each Sunday. To find other snippets, click on the logo above. There is also a facebook listing, and to get to the facebook page click on the logo below.

One bit of news: I’m participating for the first time in the A to Z Challenge. This will mean double posts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as I plan to keep up with local weather, quotation contexts and Jarn’s Journal, My regular posts go live at 8 am local time; the A to Z posts will be earlier, just after midnight, as is the Weekend Writing Warrior post. On double post days I’ll set up a small logo with a link to the A to Z post on the 8 am post. The theme? I’ll be introducing characters and world building from my published novels, many of whom will also appear in the trilogies I’ve been posting from. For the most part I plan to let my characters do the talking, and you’re all invited to droop by and meet them.

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Horse Color Summary 1

As a final summary of horse color genetics, let’s go over the loci, what they do, and the alleles at each locus. My primary reference is Sponenberg.

BC bay headThe Agouti locus is widespread in mammals, and is involved with whether and where an animal produces eumelanin (black) or phaeomelanin (red) pigment. The alleles known in horses, listed with the most dominant first, are Wild Bay (Wild-type), Bay, Seal Brown and black. Agouti is hypostatic to Extension, meaning that the effects of the agouti alleles can be seen only if the extension gene allows the animal to produce both eumelanin and phaeomelanin. Note that at this locus, the redder the color, the more dominant.

ChescrThe Extension locus is the same as the melanocortin receptor one locus, or MC1R. Like agouti, it influences whether eumalin or phaeomelanin gets into the coat and occurs in most mammals. The alleles are dominant black (still not confirmed), wild-type, and chestnut. This locus may also have genetic control over the depth of black tipping. Only wild-type and tipping allow the agouti genes to show. In this series, more black is dominant over more red. Extension is epistatic to agouti.

Agouti and extension determine the base color of the horse—bay, brown, black or chestnut.

Dun fjord1crThe various dilution genes generally affect phaeomelanin and eumelanin differently, mane and tail hair and body hair hair differently, and not uncommonly are associated with patterns of dilution.

The Dun locus has two alleles. Wild-type is dun and is dominant over non-dun, but the wild type is rare in many breeds. When present, dun dilutes both black and red pigment on the body, but the degree of dilution varies a great deal. Head, legs, mane and tail are generally much less affected than is the central body, and dorsal stripes almost always occur. “Zebra stripe” markings often occur on legs and the shoulder region. The dorsal stripe may continue down the center of the mane and tail, with the edges diluted.



The Cream locus is also known as the membrane-associated transporter protein (MATP) locus. It probably has three alleles: Wild-type, pearl, and cream. The dominance hierarchy here is complex. A horse with two wild-type alleles is normal color. A horse with one wild-type and one pearl allele looks normal color except for slightly lighter skin. A horse with two pearl alleles will have red lightened to gold and black lightened to beige. A horse with one cream allele and one wild-type allele will have red lightened to gold and black lightened only very slightly. A horse with one cream and one pearl allele will have red lightened to pale cream or ivory and black lightened to beige. Finally, a horse with two cream alleles will be a very pale color, as red lightens to cream and black to a slightly dirty white.

champcrThe Champagne locus is the SLC36A1 locus. It has two alleles: Champagne (dominant) and wild-type. Champagne dilutes red to gold and black to brown or tan. The mane and tail are generally diluted less than is the body.

Silver Dapple8:4:12The Silver Dapple locus is the pre-melanosomal protein 17 (PMEL17) locus. It has two alleles, silver (dominant) and wild-type. The silver allele dilutes black strongly but has little or no effect on red. The allele also produces very strong dilution in mane, tail and lower legs, at times producing horses that appear black with white manes and tails. Far commoner are horses with a blue to chocolate body, often heavily dappled, with distinctly lighter manes and tails. At one time common primarily in ponies.

The Mushroom locus has not yet been located. Two alleles are suspected, wild-type (dominant) and mushroom (recessive.) Mushroom horses resemble silver dapples, but lack dappling and have tested chestnut at the extension locus.

Arab dilution is another possible locus. This is believed to be a recessive allele with a strong lightening effect on black but little or no effect on red. Both Mushroom and Arab dilution are very rare.

I will summarize patterns of white, including grey and roan, next week.

Year 5, Day 271

WildDog is a year old today, by my reckoning.

We don’t celebrate birth dates, at least not as adults. There would simply be too many of them! But we do celebrate a few important ones, and one of these is when a child completes its first year. Friends of the parents come together, and the child is given its first taste of sweets.

honeycomb, MorguefileLittle WildDog is still getting almost all of his nourishment from his mother’s milk though he does have teeth, as my fingers can attest! I am not sure why, as he certainly cannot chew anything, and they merely make nursing him uncomfortable for Songbird. She is beginning to chew food and then give it to him, and it occurred to me that it has been a long time since I brought sweet fruits to my helpers. So I teleported to the sites of several palms that have had sweet fruit in the past, and brought dates for Songbird to give WildDog. I also teleported a bit of honeycomb from a wild bees’ nest – from a healthy distance!

I had a hard time not laughing at the results. WildDog screwed his face up and prepared to cry at the strange taste in his mouth, as he usually does when Songbird gives him something new. Then his eyes went wide and he blinked a time or two, working his mouth. The final stage was a beatific smile, and a mouth eagerly opened for more. “That’s a special birthday treat,” I told him firmly. “I know it tastes good, but it won’t help you grow strong.”

I am not sure how much he understands, as I refuse to employ my mind-reading talent. But I could swear he looked disappointed.

Jarn’s Journal is a bit of the back story of the Jarnian Confederation, where most of my science fiction is based. It is the journal of a human-like alien with esper abilities, Jarn, who was stranded in Africa some 125,000 years ago.

By the way, I am participating in the A to Z Challenge this year, with posts live just after midnight about the characters and some of the world-building in my books. I’m letting the characters speak for themselves, though I try to tell when they’re speaking from.

Quotes from J.R.R. Tolkien

These are the contexts of the quotes tweeted from @sueannbowling March 21-27, 2013. All but the last are from The Fellowship of the Ring, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Note that these quotes are from the book, not the movie.

Map of Eriador

Map showing the early part of the Fellowship’s journey. This was a foldout in the original edition.

“Home is behind, the world ahead.” Part of a walking song that Bilbo taught Frodo.

“We still remember, we who dwell in this far land beneath the trees.” Part of the Elvish song that drives off the Riders.

“The short cut has gone crooked already.”  Frodo, after the hobbits have left the road to be less visible to the Black Riders. Trouble is, their “short cut” leads them through some pretty rough country—as Pippin warned them.

“A lot goes on behind his round face that does not come out in his talk.” Merry’s comment on Farmer Maggot.

“If you were in a hurry, the road would have served you better.” Farmer Maggot, when Frodo admits their “short cut” landed them in his fields.

“I see you have ideas of your own.” Farmer Maggot to Frodo, after he has told them of the Black Riders and Frodo has been very quiet about them.

“What was wrong with her, that she had forgotten so thoroughly the dangers of her home?” Bowling, Homecoming. After two centuries on the isolation satellite, Marna has forgotten about predators, much less that they will attack her species.

The sun rose this morning at 7:31, and will set after 12 hours and 52 minutes, at 8:24 this evening. We’re gaining 6 minutes 44 seconds a day, and the sun on the snow near noon is blinding. I regret to say that while it may be spring officially, there is no melting in sight here. For the ice park, this in wonderful. I personally am a little tired of almost 2’ of snow still on the ground, with more snow today. (It was snowing when I went to bed last night, and by 8 this morning we’d accumulated another 3″.) Still nothing like I hear the middle of the lower 48 is getting, though the south coast of Alaska is scheduled for a foot or more.

Speaking of the ice park, I went through the Youth division Friday. This division is for artists through 18 years of age. I’d say they did a pretty good job.

Ice sculpture

Fuego, 1st place Youth division. Artists Josh Lundy and Anand

Ice sculpture

Stargate, 2nd Place Youth division. Artist Tane Timling.

Ice sculpture

Cygnus Olor, 3rd place Youth Division. Artists Joe Plett and Jed Hall.

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I’m still posting from War’s End, and we’re in Coralie’s POV. She’s been forced to stand by while the other castaways improvise a tent against a rapidly approaching rainstorm, since her infant daughter was demanding to be fed – again.

WR 136, HubbleFumbled by her standards, she corrected herself, but the crude shelter at least kept them dry as the rain began in earnest. “Is this weather likely to be normal?” she finally asked.

Audi paused in her halting conversation with the Maung to study the information in the reader. “If we’re near the equator, yes,” she replied. “There’s an intertropical convergence zone, and it doesn’t move too much with the seasons because Rakal has less tilt than average. My guess is we’re in it, and we’ll get daily thunderstorms.” She had to raise her voice to be heard above the drumming on the sheet just over their heads.

Well, they have shelter from the rain, at least, if not from the heat.

This post is part of Weekend Writing Warriors, a group of authors who share snippets from their work each Sunday. Do click on the logo above to find a list of participants and links to their snippets. There is also a facebook list, which you can reach via the logo below. And we all love comments.

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Horse head

Look at the ear tips on this bay.

This article was originally posted April 24, 2011. It is being repeated here with new photos and some revision.

Horse colors are due to the interaction of a large number of genes, many of which we’ve discussed. These may be divided into base color genes, diluting genes, genes that cause interspersed white hairs and marking genes. One type we have not discussed, because the genetics are not really understood, is interspersed black hairs.

I’d like to point out one thing that Sponenberg does not cover: there are two distinct types of darkening due to the presence of black. It takes a magnifying glass and a great deal of patience to tell the difference, but darkening can be due either to interspersed black hairs (called sooty and it can occur on any base color) or to hairs that are red/yellow at the base and black at the tip (producing a shaded appearance and I think occurring only on bay, wild bay and some seal brown horses.)

For the rest of this discussion I will assume the horse is of one of the base colors, but sooty and shading can occur with any dilution or marking genes, or together with roaning or grey. You just have to remember what the other genes do to red and black pigment, or if they have different effects on coarse and fine hair.


Chestnut with sooty gene. The dark mane and tail almost look bay, but the lower legs clearly identify this horse as a chestnut.

Liver chestnuts are often sooty. It takes careful examination to tell if a chestnut has interspersed black hair, but when I was examining them with a magnifying glass, this was true of every liver chestnut I examined. Even red chestnuts often have a few black hairs mixed into the coat and the mane and tail. Bays can also be sooty, but this may be confused by the presence of shading.

In order to understand black shading, it is necessary to go back and look at how the agouti locus affects mammals in general. The locus got its name from a middle and South American rodent, the agouti. This animal has fur in which the individual hairs are banded in black and yellow. As it happens this is very common in mammals, and a number have banded hair. Unless the hair is very coarse this is not obvious—wild gray mice and rabbits, for instance, really have hair banded in black and light yellow.

The banding may vary from multiple bands on a hair to hair with red/yellow/cream bases and black tips. The banding may also vary with type of hair, with some hairs (often the coarsest) being solid black and others (often the finest) being predominantly yellow.


This guy is a mule, but he shows an interesting combination of shading due to the depth of black tipping and the variation of red/yellow pigment.

Remember bay and wild bay are due to genes at the agouti locus. Most bay horses have at least some banded hair on the body, usually with a red base and black tip. This is easiest to see around the edges of the ears, and the banded hairs tend to be most numerous along the spine and spreading down to cover the hips, shoulders and upper barrel. It’s been a long time since I actually looked at individual hairs with a magnifying glass or under a microscope—I was doing this in the late 60’s and early 70’s. But as I recall, just about every bay or buckskin horse I looked at had at least a few black-tipped hairs. In some, the black tipping produced a shaded effect on the body of the horse.

A few horses look black or seal brown in summer coat and quite different in winter. I recall two of these. Duchess was a typical seal brown in the summer—black with tan shading on her flanks, muzzle and under her tail. In winter she looked dark bay. Careful examination of her winter coat showed red near the skin with deep black tips. In her short summer coat, apparently only the tips showed.

The other was even more striking. I first saw him in winter coat, and thought at first he was a blue roan. Careful examination of his coat showed yellow bases with black tips rather than interspersed white hair—a buckskin with deep black tipping. In summer, I knew he was the same horse only because the stable owner identified him—he was a typical seal brown.

Note that this shaded effect due to black tipping is quite different from the counter-shading often seen in red/yellow pigment, which leads to the undersides being lighter than the back. This is very common in mammals, and tends to offset the fact that light comes from above, making the animal less visible to predators. The shading in a bay may be due to the same selection pressure, but the effect on the individual hairs is quite different.

This is an area that needs much more research. Unfortunately with the prominence of DNA in genetic research, researchers seem not to be paying as much attention to the distribution of pigment in the hair.

Year 5 day 200

seal, MorguefileAt least it is not raining any more. More accurately, I’ve gotten out of the equatorial rainy zone.

For a while it was so wet I almost dreaded my coastline mapping, even though after the delta the coast turned more or less southward. Things have become gradually drier over the last fiveday, and I’ve increased the length of coast I’ve mapped each day. Today I think I’m back in desert, although a considerably rockier desert than the sand dunes far to the north. In fact, I rather think this may be the same desert I found when I was first exploring.

I knew there were predators such as crocodiles in the inland waters as well as on the land. But today I realized for the first time that ocean predators can be a real threat to mammals that live partly on land. I came on a group of mammals unlike any I have seen before, obviously adapted to the water. Fish are abundant along this coast, no doubt because of the cold current offshore, so there is a rich marine food supply and these mammals are adapted to take advantage of it. They are streamlined, with very dense, oily fur, their limbs are reduced to flippers and they are as awkward on land as they are graceful in the water. They are not small; even the females mass more than I do.

I watched as a mother left her pup and headed out to sea to feed. She never made it much past the first line of breakers. A great fish, with rows of sharp teeth in a gaping mouth, leapt from the water to seize her. It was so hot I had thought of dipping myself into the water, but not until I have tested that the warnoff will work with this creature!

Jarn’s Journal is the fictional journal of an equally fictional human-like alien, Jarn, stranded in Africa roughly 125,000 years ago. He is in the process of mapping the coastline of Africa. His Journal to date can be found on my author site.

Ice Sculpture: Places 3-5 Abstract

It’s officially the first full day of spring, but with 20″ of snow still on the ground and temperatures well below freezing it’s had to tell that from the local weather! Mainly photos today, with the rest of the multi-block abstract placers.

Ice Sculpture

Singing in Unison, 3rd place abstract. Vitaliy Lednev, Russia, Mario Amegee, Monaco, Junko Yanagida, Japan, and Speareo Stephens, USA.

Ice sculpture

On My Way Home, 4th place abstract, multi-block. Tian Zuo Wei, China, Linda Heck, USA, Qun Li Mu, China, and Ling Zhi Zhang, China.

ice sculpture

The Dream of the Sky, 5th place abstract. Sergei Zinner, Viacheslav Maksimov, Andrey Koshelev, and Evgenii Gorbunov, Russia

reveal logoBreaking news: I found out just this morning that there’s an A to Z theme reveal going on, so I signed up at the last minute. My theme? I’m doing my A to Z blogs from my books, both characters and background information. For characters I’ll introduce them quickly, say what point of time they’re talking from since their situations change drastically through the books, and let them talk. The format of background information will vary according to what I’m talking about. Bold type will indicate that more information has been or will be available in another A to Z post. All of these blogs will be scheduled to go live at 6 pm Alaska time.

Quotes from Anne McCaffrey

These are the contexts of the quotes tweeted from @sueannbowling from March 14 though March 20, 2013.

cover, All the Weyrs of Pern“Can you do more than act with honor?” Anne McCaffrey, All the Weyrs of Pern. Ruth, the white dragon, speaking to Jaxsom after he has made the decision to exile Master Robinton’s kidnappers.

“Everything takes longer and costs more.” Anne McCaffrey, All the Weyrs of Pern. Hamian, who has to try to manufacture the space suits.

Cover, The Dolphins of Pern “Evolutionary change takes much longer than twenty-five hundred Turns.” Anne McCaffrey, The Dolphins of Pern. Aivas is speaking to Master Alemi, explaining that the reason that the dolphins look the same on tapes from Earth as they due currently on Pern is because so little time has passed (in evolutionary terms.)

“Courtesy is essential in all dealings with humans.” Anne McCaffrey, The Dolphins of Pern. Aivas, responding after Alemi comments “You’re very polite, for a machine.”

“Some basic skills did not change.” Anne McCaffrey, The Dolphins of Pern. Some things have been lost on Pern, but others, such as fishing methods, stayed very much the same.

“Knowledge is sometimes two-edged.” Anne McCaffrey, The Dolphins of Pern. Menolly is wondering whether all the knowledge they are receiving from Aivas is not potentially a problem.

“Something back there is going to eat us.” Bowling, “Horse Power.” The way Roi expresses the feelings of a stampeding herd of Silkies.