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Argente Golden Coat Colour - Every silver lining has a cloud

arg102-0226_IMG.jpgAlthough the name Argente is familiar with most gerbil enthusiasts, not many out there understand the meaning of the name, or its origin.  If we look closer still. and realise the definition of Argente or Argent simply means silver, or silvering, then we start to wonder why the Argente golden was given this name in the first place because it has no silver, or to be more accurate, silvering to its coat.  However, it was decided many years ago in gerbil societies that they should follow suit to the mouse fancy and use the name Argente as it is the genetic equivalent to the Argente mouse, 'AApp', although that's where the similarities end and probably why the "golden" suffix was added to the name as our 'AApp' Argent Golden gerbil has no silvering whatsoever to its coat.  It is only when we lighten the coat further by the addition of a single c(h) allele do we start to see the familiar silvering appear.  So in effect our Argente Cream AA Cc(h)pp is the true Argente coat colour.  The old name for the Argente Golden coat colour in the gerbil was originally known as Cinnamon, and while it may be a more accurate and descriptive name, cinnamon coat varieties are often asociated with the brown gene. 

If we take this logic a step further,  and look at the Argente mouse, the name is quite accurate in a sense that their 'AApp' mouse contains a good deal of silvering to its coat, and the mouse standard for Argente stipulates that the top coat should be a blend of light fawn and silver with an even intermingling of the two colours.  The reason for this difference compared to the 'AApp' gerbil coat colour is quite simple;  the pink eyed dilution gene in the mouse has a far stronger diluting effect on the coat than the equivalent mutation in the gerbil does. This phenomena; that of the mouse gene being stronger in dilution, can also be seen in their 'aapp' Dove coat colour, which genetically is our Lilac coat variety, and the difference between the two shades are quite obvious to the eye.  This coupled with a difference in the natural agouti coat of the mouse when compared to the sandy colour of the agouti coat colour in the gerbil lends to a different appearance in the overal colour when they are compared together.

In the mouse fancy the name Argente was derived from the Argente rabbit breeds, and these unique coat colours are made possible by the Silver gene (si)  So in effect, the mouse Argente could be said to be a "pseudo" or "mock Argente" as it doesn't rely on a specific  Silvering gene to produce the silvering in the coat.

In the rabbit breed Argente they are homozygous for 'si' or silvering,  and the rabbits themselves start off as a normal colour but after first moult will fade or silver until they are almost white.  Their base colour still remains, but appears almost like ticking or flecking throughout the coat.  The Silver gene  is very variable, even across breeds of rabbit, and this appears to be the case for the Silver gene in the mouse too. In mice on a black (non-agouti) background it creates the silver-greys in three shades, the lightest of which have been selected over generations to become the pearl coat variety mouse; a coat variety which is extremely scarce today.

In the Rabbit, the Argente comes in 4 recognised colours (all with French names) of which the Argente Bleu is a particular stunning coat colour and a firm favourite of mine, but even across different breeds of rabbit, the silvering effect can be very variable, as can be seen in these two photo links below, and this depends to a great extent on the accompanying polygenes present;



The effect of silvering in the rabbit is very similar to our extension of yellow (fading) e(f) gene in the gerbil, and with each successive moult, the rabbit becomes suffused with white hairs.  This transformation effect can be very unusual to see. In the photos below you can see how the Argente Noir goes from a black rabbit into a very silvered one.




To finally appear like this;


in different domestic species, silvering can either be dominant  or recessive, and where some may work mostly on black pigments, and especially so on brown pigments,  we can have oddities like cats where it just hits the yellow pigments.  We also have a similar situation in gerbils too connected with e(f) as I mentioned above.

However,  in all these variants they don't actually affect the pigments directly like we see in other mutations.  What we see is a mutation in the silver protein which then goes on to affect the development of the melanoblasts (these are the precursers to the melanocyte that produce the pigment)  The net result is that there are fewer melanocytes in the hair follicle and these often die prematurely with each hair cycle.  So rather than it affecting pigment synthesis directly, it actually affects the development of the growing melanocytes.

So what happens if Silvering or true Argente appears in the gerbil, and what would it look like? Well it may look like this fellow below,

So here's a few pics showing how an Argente Bleu gerbil goes through each succeeding moult;cheeky





Photos courtesy of Caroline