Color and Pattern
From the series previously discussed, we now are left with solid Black dogs. Three gene series are responsible for creating the wide range of colors/patterns seen in the Harlequin color-group of Great Danes.
M-Series: merle. This gene is an incomplete dominant. There are two alleles:
There are thus three possible combinations of the above in any one dog:
H-series: Harlequin gene. This too is an incomplete dominant, but with some additional complications. The two alleles are:
The dominant gene H ONLY has an effect of the phenotype in combination with the Merle gene. If a dog is mm (not-merle) the H gene may very well be present, but will have NO effect on the dog's appearance. As with Merle, there are three possible combinations of these genes, but only two appear in dogs.
Looking only at the above two genes, we have the following possible combinations:
S-Series: White Spotting. There are several alleles at this locus. Although ranked by dominance, all show a pattern of incomplete dominance, with the resulting pattern being in between the two alleles in a heterozygous dog. The pattern seems to lean a bit more in the direction of the dominant of the two alleles, but still is in between the patterns coded by each of the two genes that is present in the individual dog. There are also plus and minus modifiers that affect somewhat the amount of white, meaning that each genetic combination will show variation. Between the effect of each gene being varied by the plus and minus modifiers, and the incomplete dominance action of these alleles, guessing S-series patterning from looking at a dog (rather than also examining the parents and offspring) can be difficult.
Now let's look at the appearance of some of the heterozygous possibilites.
Although the white patterns are easily visible on Black and Merle Danes, there are obvious complications in determining the white pattern on a Harlequin, due the impossibility of distinguishing white caused by the H-series from white caused by the S-series.
Resources: Great Dane Rescue
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