Pitfalls in the Genetic Classification of Colors: Maser and Pencil
Similarities in the phenotype are often misinterpreted as being
genetically identical. When asked what the dark ‘maser’ of the
Danzig Highflyer (fig. 1) shown in a photo was, around 40% of the
answers in a genetics group plead for 'pencil', when the direct
answers and the 'likes' were added. A third of the answers were
'grizzle and smoky', which pointed in the right direction. Behind
it, the reference to the dark variant of the ‘maser’ (veined or
grained), a traditional color class of the Danzig highflyers, with
15%. However, the own contribution and approvals are omitted in
calculating the percentages.
1: Danzig Highflyers at Schachtzabel 1910, dark ‘maser’ third bird
from the left.
reason for the predominantly incorrect and imprecise classification
are probably descriptions in the literature. In 1965 Levi shows a
light ‘maser’ as a 'mottle' (fig. 2), in another genetic work a
light ‘maser’ is assigned to the group of the 'pencil'. The white or
white grizzle head of the maser variants, deviating from the Briver
Color Heads with the pencil trait, was misinterpreted as ‘baldhead’,
a misleading term that would be worth a discussion of its own.
2: Light ‘maser’ Danzig Highflyer at Levi 1965, there named
assignment to the Pencil group by the authors at that time was
probably only a conjecture that readers understood and understand as
a fact. It was not tested, otherwise it would have been noticed that
besides some details in the coloring also the inheritance is
3: Brive Colorheads blue and black and Strasser black-laced.
Source: Pigeon Genetics 2012
4: F1 of a Pomeranian Dominant White cock and a blue bar
hen; light and dark maser Danzig Highflyer. Source: Pigeon Genetics
‘Maser’, the coloring of ‘red bar grizzles’ and other grizzle
variants in several highflyer breeds, are often hidden under
dominant whites of the respective breeds. It can be uncovered in
case of continued back pairings to colored partners. The here shown
uncovered grizzle variants are all dominant, because the individuals
are heterozygous due to the colored mothers. The crosses shown at
the attached photo sequences were done in a different context, but
may still invite you to systematic investigations.
the first picture sequence (fig. 5) the pairing of a dominant white
Stralsund of the flying type with a Spread Ash Pomeranian Eye
Crested Highflyer. Most often you get from pairings of dominant
white with full colored individuals whites with a few colored flecks
(Fig. 4 left), in this mating, however, a red bar grizzle cock
(figure 5 in the top row). This cock mated back to a platinum bar
hen produced young as shown in the lower row.
5: F1 and first backcross of a Stralsund Highflyer
(flying type) and Pomeranian Eye Crested Highflyer hens.
Figure 6 a red bar grizzle cock from the first backcross is shown
with his dam, a Pomeranian Spread Platinum hen. At the right their
grizzle- and maser-like young of the first round. Both young again
heterozygous for the specific grizzle/maser trait.
6: Second backcross after an outcross upon a dominant white Flying
Levi, W., Encyclopedia of Pigeon Breeds, Jersey City 1965.
Illustriertes Prachtwerk sämtlicher Tauben-Rassen, Würzburg o.J.
Sell, A., Pigeons Genetics. Applied Genetics in the Domestic Pigeon,
Taubenzucht. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen züchterischer Gestaltung,