Researcher Receives Grant to Study ‘Tiger Eye’ in Paso Finos

A favorable trait, the “tiger eye” iris color is a yellow-orange shade believed to be unique to Paso Finos.

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Rebecca Bellone, PhD, associate professor of biology at the University of Tampa, has received a $3,200 grant from TriLink BioTechnologies to facilitate research on the genetics of the "tiger eye" in pure Puerto Rican Paso Fino horses.

Most horses have brown eyes, however the "tiger eye" iris color is a yellow-orange shade believed to be unique to this breed of horse and is considered a favorable trait. Bellone hopes to identify a causative mutation or associated marker that could be used as a DNA test for horse breeders to predict the trait. The grant will fund primers that will be used in DNA sequencing reactions to find the mutation.

Under the supervision of Bellone, the research is being conducted by a UT undergraduate student, Elizabeth Kowalski. Kowalski, a senior biochemistry student and recipient of two University of Tampa Department of Biology summer research fellowships, has presented some of her findings already at two international conferences, and has one published abstract. The results of her work funded by this grant will also be presented at conferences and submitted for publication.

Bellone, who specializes in molecular biology related to animal genetics, previously received grants from TriLink in 2003 and 2005. Bellone was most recently recognized for research of 25,000-year-old cave paintings of spotted horses on the walls of caves in Pech Merle, France

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