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Curr Biol. 2001 Sep 18;11(18):1468-72.

Inheritance and population structure of the white-phased "Kermode" black bear.

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Department of Forest Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T1Z4, Canada.


We report that a single nucleotide replacement in the melanocortin 1 receptor gene [1] (mc1r) is responsible for the white coat color of the "Kermode" bear [2], a color phase of the black bear (Ursus americanus Pallus) found in the rainforests along the north coast of British Columbia. In a sample of 220 bears, of which 22 were white, there was complete association of a recessive Tyr-to-Cys replacement at codon 298 with the white phase. This variant has not been yet been reported in other mammals, and it also is the lightest-colored variant yet found at mc1r. Also, we found that heterozygotes, which act as a hidden reservoir for the allele among black bears, were infrequent outside of the three islands where Kermodes are common and that, within these three islands, heterozygotes were less frequent than expected under random mating. Immigration of black bears into Kermode populations can depress the occurrence of the white phase, and management practices should be designed to avoid facilitating higher immigration rates.

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