Bassingbourn black fox killed by car to be tested by scientists

16:37 30 March 2012

The black fox spotted in Bassingbourn. Photo by John Moore

The black fox spotted in Bassingbourn. Photo by John Moore

Archant

THE black fox of Bassingbourn which was killed by a car yesterday (Thursday) will be tested by scientists to see if the mystery behind its existence can be revealed.

The fox was spotted in the area last week, with the Crow featuring video footage and pictures of the animal.

But shortly afterwards, it was hit by a car between Royston and Bassingbourn. It has now been delivered to the Life Sciences Department at the Anglia Ruskin University, with plans to test it to discover the cause of the genetic mutation.

Helen McRobie, a lecturer in biomedical sciences at the university and world-leading expert on genetic mutations involving black squirrels, plans to test the animal shortly.

She told the Crow: “I’m going to do some DNA tests to see if I can find the mutation that’s causing this.

“There are two likely genes. It could be the same gene that causes melanism, which is found in black squirrels, or it could be a different one. If it’s not one of these two, it will be very difficult to know what it is.

“Testing can be quite quick if it’s the gene I think it is. If not, it could be almost impossible.”

Dr McRobie first heard about the fox after getting being notified by a colleague.

The animal is now being frozen until she is ready to begin her tests.

“I had an email which said it might interest me, and I said ‘yes, it would’,” she said.

“I got round to the fox as soon as I could. Someone had got there first, but the fox has come to us now. I’m going to get testing on it as soon as I can.”

Black foxes are uncommon, with sightings of the animals rare. Sightings of other mutated species have also been discovered, notably the black squirrel, which was first spotted in Letchworth GC.

“It’s popped up in all sorts of foxes and rabbits too. It’s relatively rare, but it happens,” she added.

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