I freely admit that genetics is not my strongest subject, and as I prefer to stick with what I know, so I shall merely gloss over this topic and just explain the very basics that I am comfortable with. Thus, this article will not be of interest to experienced breeders with a good knowledge. However, I hope that it may explain some things for people new to breeding chinchillas.
There are now many color variants being bred, including the “blends” and crosses that are possible too. However, to achieve a certain color you do need to have an understanding of how to get there without compromising the health of a chinchilla.
Some mutations tend to breed weak. By this, I mean that although the easiest way of achieving a certain colored kit (for instance, Violet) is to breed two Violets together, this may not be the best way regarding the quality of the offspring. Two Violets bred together may produce a small kit, with poor color and qualities. The same applies to any mutation really.
Therefore it is always recommended (even for pet owners) that a mutation is always bred to a GOOD QUALITY standard or standard carriers whenever possible, to impart, health, vitality, and size into the offspring. Good breeding practices ensure strong and healthy chinchillas well into the future.
Before I continue, here are some useful terminology and meanings.
- Homozygous – two identical alleles on the corresponding gene loci.
- Heterozygous – two different alleles on the corresponding gene loci.
- Phenotype – an animals appearance/charactisterics
- Genotype – an animals genetic makeup
- Mutation – in this case, any color that is not Standard
- Chromosome – Structures in a cell’s nucleus that house the genes (chinchillas have 64!!)
- Allele – one of two alternate forms of a gene that can have the same locus on chromosomes. They may be responsible for alternative traits – i.e., some alleles are dominant over others.
- Locus – A locus describes the position of a gene on a chromosome. A locus can be occupied by any of the alleles of the gene. (Leading us – once again to the term homozygous = (have the same allele at a locus) or heterozygous = (have different alleles at a locus).
- TOV – An American term “Touch of Velvet” meaning a chinchilla with the “Velvet” gene
- Standard – Standard Grey – the natural color of chinchillas
- Lethal Gene Factor – certain colors (white and velvet) are not viable if homozygous for that color (i.e., they can only exist in the heterozygous state). These colors are said to have a “lethal factor.”
- Carrier – A chinchilla of any particular phenotype may “carry” a single gene for another color. i.e., may be a heterozygous carrier for a recessive color. Recessive colors are only expressed in the homozygous state (when a chinchilla inherits both genes). A chinchilla can carry more than one recessive color – if bred to do so.
- Recessive Inheritance – If both parents carry a recessive, gene (i.e., Violet). The parents, although carriers, are not violet colored. Their offspring will always be violet (if they inherit both genes) violet carrier (if they inherit one gene) or “normal” if they don’t inherit any genes.
- Dominant Inheritance – One parent has a single, dominant gene (i.e., black velvet) – which appears phenotypically. When the parent mates with a “normal” or standard (non-carrying) mate, the offspring will either be Black velvet or standard, but they are never carriers as the dominant gene cannot be carried.
Main Color “Groups”
Here is a list of the main color groups (not including every cross or blend that is possible, or I would have to write a novel for that!!)
- Standard Grey
- Black Velvet
- Ebony Velvet (called TOV ebony in the US)
- Charcoal (a true recessive mutation in its own right – not recognized in the States and their term “charcoal” is often used to describe Hetero. Ebonies which are, in Europe, a separate mutation)
- Wilson White (including silver and mosaic)
- Black/white cross (In the US known as TOV White)
- Ultra Violet
- Violet Wrap
- Royal Blue
- Homozygous Beige (also known as (old fashioned terms): Apricot, Champagne, Rose)
- Heterozygous Beige
- Brown Velvet (In the US known as TOV Beige)
Of the above colors, many can be crossed to produce double and triple recessives, which can then produce varied mutation offspring, although many will have a similar phenotype.
However, it must be mentioned that the Velvet and the White gene have a lethal gene factor when in the homozygous state. This means that velvet to velvet and white to white pairings are inadvisable as this will result in 1 in 4 (25%) embryos being non-viable. These two colors can only exist in the heterozygous state.
White to velvet pairings are possible as the lethal factor exists on different loci for each color.
Recessive colors are only expressed when the chinchilla inherits two genes from its parents. Animals that only inherit one gene are known as carriers and will appear to be “normal” in phenotype (i.e., a Standard chinchilla that “carries” Violet – AKA: A Standard Violet Carrier).
Dominant colors are expressed differently, and only one parent need be that color to pass it onto the next generation.
Basic Pairing Results
Here are some of the most basic examples (NOT including Ebony or Double Recessives) of the possible offspring (in %) statistically expected from certain pairings.
- Standard X Standard = 100% Standard
- Standard X Hetero. Beige = 50% Standard – 50% Hetero. Beige
- Standard X Homo. Beige = 100% Hetero. Beige
- Standard X Pink/White = 25% Pink/White – 25% Standard – 25% Hetero. Beige – 25% Wilson White
- Standard X Wilson White = 50% Wilson White – 50% Standard
- Standard X Black Velvet = 50% Standard – 50% Black Velvet
- Standard X Brown Velvet = 25% Standard – 25% Brown Velvet – 25% Black Velvet – 25% Hetero. Beige
- Standard X Violet = 100% Standard (carrying Violet)
- Standard (carrying Violet) X Violet = 50% Violet – 50% Standard (carrying Violet)
- Hetero. Beige X Hetero. Beige = 50% Homo. Beige – 25% Hetero. Beige – 25% Standard
- Hetero. Beige X Black Velvet = 25% Hetero. Beige – 25% Brown Velvet – 25% Standard – 25% Black Velvet
- Homo. Beige X Black Velvet = 50% Brown Velvet – 25% Hetero, Beige
- Black Velvet X Wilson White = 25% Wilson White – 25% Black/White Cross – 25% Black Velvet – 25% Standard
- Black Velvet X Brown Velvet = 25% Brown Velvet – 25% Black Velvet – 12.5% Standard – 12.5% Hetero. Beige – 25% Lethal Gene
- Wilson White X Pink/White = 25% Pink/White – 25% Wilson White – 12.5% Standard – 12.5% Hetero. Beige – 25% Lethal Gene
- Pink/White X Brown Velvet = 18.75% Brown Velvet – 12.50% Hetero. Beige – 18.75% TOV Pink/White – 18.75% Pink/White – 6.25% Standard – 6.25% Homo. Beige – 6.25% Wilson White – 6.25% Black Velvet – 6.25% Black./White Cross
- Black Velvet X Violet = 50% Standard (carrying Violet) – 50% Black Velvet (carrying Violet)
- Violet X Black Velvet (carrying Violet) = 25% Violet – 25% Standard (carrying Violet) – 25% Black Velvet (carrying Violet) – 25% Ultra Violet
- Homo. Beige X Violet = 100% Hetero. Beige (carrying violet)
- Hetero. Beige (carrying Violet) X Violet = 25% Violet – 25% Standard (carrying Violet) – 25% Hetero. Beige (carrying Violet) – 25% Beige/Violet (AKA: Pearl)
Charcoal and Sapphire recessive mutations behave in the same manner as Violet.