Snakes that have a mutation, or morphs as they’re commonly referred, are more sought after than any singular snake breed.
What Is A Snake Morph?
What is a snake morph? To have a snake that has morphed means that some sort of genetic mutation has occurred that makes a snake look different than what is commonly expected. A morph is different than a Genetic Defect where it generally affects color rather than physical make-up (ex. two heads).
Breeding snakes to be different than what is expected is all the rage because we are no longer satisfied with the regular Pythons, Cornsnakes, and other breeds typical among consumers that we see all the time.
The history and evolution of snake morph breeding
Genetic Defects vs. Morphs
The failed science experiment that created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles took turtles and transformed them into human-like creatures that could fight crime.
I’m sorry to disappoint everyone, but this is not what we’re talking about. There are no human-sized snakes running around gobbling down pizza and wearing distinctly colored bandanas.
Sometimes people can confuse a genetic defect with a morph.
For example, a genetic defect in a snake could be two heads! This is, however, rare. When talking about Morphs, people are most likely to be referring to color morphing.
An Albino Ball Python, for instance, would be a bigger ticket item for collectors or breeders compared to a wild-type commonly found Ball Python.
The purpose behind creating a snake morph would be to create an interesting pattern or color combination that you won’t see at every pet store you visit. The difference between a genetic defect and a morph to us is simply that one creates confusion and interest from its foreign nature, and the other causes us to marvel in beauty and uniqueness.
The Genetic Reasons For Morphism
Bear with me during this section. I am not an award-winning scientist in genetics, and I don’t expect you to be one either. Ignoring the fact that I’m not qualified to teach a lecture on this subject, I’ve taken the time to research the subject thoroughly. I thought I’d take the time to give a brief summation of why genetic mutations happen to produce snake morphs.
According to my sources out in the World Wide Web, color mutations happen for a variety of reasons. The simplest reason has us diving back into high school biology class–
the mutations inherited from the parents, naturally, are the result of both parents carrying a recessive gene of that mutation.
Sometimes it will physically manifest itself in the offspring, and other times it will not. That is as far as I’m willing to wade into the genetics pool right now.
The naturally occurring morph outcomes are rare and admired among many. Starting in the mid-1900’s, it became more popular to strategically breed snakes with the goal in mind that they will morph.
We have carried on that tradition ever since to push the boundaries of what we know. We want to find interest and beauty in everything we encounter. Snakes are no different in their ability to awe us.
Morphs became very popular because they were so hard to find in the wild.
Once scientists and snake breeders realized that they could create different combinations of the same snake, the market took off!
It suddenly wasn’t exotic enough just to own a snake. You needed a brightly colored, interestingly patterned, or fascinating combination of the two to satisfy the excitement.
After a time, morphs were no longer completely rare but found at most breeders. The goal now is to be different or have a good variety to catch many types of buyers. The snake market is a diverse platform and there is rarely a snake that you can’t find with a little research.
Natural vs. Engineered
It is common among snake breeders to take two separate snakes they want some trait from, and breeding them to achieve a new and exciting combination that will sell for big bucks.
Weirdly enough, I have found many sites offering a Morph Calculator. You put in two snakes, in the same breed, that you want a combination of and the calculator supposedly spits out a likely outcome and probability percentages. This is a fascinating thought since I never considered genetics being a simple math problem a computer could predict. Oh, the wonders of technology!
In the wild, morphs happen rarely because the likely hood of two snakes carrying the same recessive mutation is rare. In this day and age, the word “rare” has become almost synonymous with “money.” This is where the never-ending fight for power starts.
Breeding snakes specifically for their special morphed traits has become so popular that some morphs are no longer all that rare. This means that breeders have to be on the constant lookout for new ideas and combinations to try. Staying ahead of the game takes patience, time, and money!
Snake coloration morphs don’t seem to need any special treatment when they are born with no noticeable issues.
A morph, in general, is not like having a disability that needs extra care or instructions.
The morphs typically follow the same feeding, living, and general care pattern as wild-type snakes from the same breed.
An Albino Ball Python will need the same treatment as a regular wild-type Ball Python. Although everything I’ve said up to this point is true, some defects resulting from selective breeding can cause psychological or physical issues in your snake.
One common defect found in Ball Pythons with the Spider morph is the wobble. This morph has been known to exhibit a semi-serious neurological condition called “Wobble Syndrome.”
Wobble Syndrome: a disorder that causes the snake to have weak muscles which affect the tail’s ability to grip things tightly.
As the name suggests, another issue is the constant shaking of the snake’s head. In summary, this defect takes away the snake’s ability to make precise or quick movements.
I thought it was important to mention this defect because it may change how you feed your snake. If you decided to give your snake live prey, then the Wobble Syndrome may make it difficult for your morph to catch its food. This wouldn’t be an issue though because these defects are usually obvious since birth and don’t suddenly develop later in the snake’s life.
A scholarly article I found that talks all about issues that can result from breeding snake morphs can be found here. When researching, I have found that these defects do not automatically mean that your Ball Python, or other selective bred snake, will live a shorter life.
These defects just change the way in which your snake morph will live. If you’re interested in the science behind the defects, then give that article a try!
What I gleaned from all these articles is the importance of being educated in what you’re doing. Snake breeders spend years and a lot of money understanding what breeds go well together and which do not. It’s an art form along with a science. And if I’ve learned anything from disasters in science class, it’s important to know what you’re doing.
Where to Find Snake Morphs
Snake morphs are everywhere! Just like any snake you want to buy, the morphed versions aren’t far behind. Most breeders have a combination of wild-type and morphs for sale.
Other breeders advertise morphs specifically, like MorphMarket.com. In the name, it tells you exactly what it’s trying to sell. On the other hand, you look at places such as Snakes At Sunset and you can find a wide variety of snake breeds. Morphs are intermingled with wild-type snakes on websites like these.
Your first step should always be to research what kind of morph you want. Some morphs are more common, like the Albino Ball Python. This snake can be found on multiple sites because it was so coveted in the snake community at one time.
There is also the options of going to snake expos where morphs are commonplace and celebrated! Snake expos travel around the country and exhibit many snakes from many different breeders.
You’re bound to find the one you’re looking for there. It is also nice that snake expos will usually give you a sneak peek of what kinds of snakes and reptiles to expect when you go to their website.
Expos are a good way to find an exciting new breed, but if you’re just looking to get your snake quick and easy the online route is probably the best. Some online breeders have pictures, breed descriptions, and care instructions right on their websites.
Online snake shopping is also good for those who don’t have a breeder nearby. The downfall of buying online is the extra shipping and handling charges to get your snake to you safely. Always research thoroughly before making your choice.
You can even find snake morphs in the wild, but they are not nearly as commonplace as when they’re bred in captivity. (And you generally cannot take them home with you.) Morphs can happen naturally when genetics are just right.
They have always been a wonder when people come across them in the wild, and that has transferred over to the selective breeding of snake now to produce those wonderful results.
Note: When you see “
het” in the sale description of a snake, that means the snake is “Heterozygous”. This scientific term refers to that snake being “wild-type” but carrying a recessive gene that could produce a morph if bred right.
Types of Ball Python Morphs
-Some of the most common morphs seen in snake breeds happen in Ball Pythons. One of the most coveted combinations that I have seen while researching is the Albino Ball Python.
-The reason this morph is so magical is that typical ball pythons have a combination of dark and light shades of color flowing across their scales. Browns, blacks, and tans are common and, sometimes, seen as boring.
-The Albino Ball Python brought light to the regular old color wheel. This morph is white and yellow with red eyes. These are very popular among snake consumers.
Other types of Ball Python Morphs Include:
– Desert Ghost Lemon Pastel
– Bumble Bee Ball Python
– Champagne Ball Python
– Pie Bald
– Spider Ball Python
-The expansive amount of combinations you can create with a Ball Python makes them a huge target for breeders. You can create real art with these diverse and beautiful creatures.
Types of Corn Snake Morphs
This post is mainly going to focus of Ball Python morphs and the effects that breeding specifically has on them, but I think it’s important to note that Ball Pythons are not the only market for snake morphs. Another popular breed is Corn Snake
Corn Snakes are very popular among the casual snake owner and make great beginner snakes. They are bred and bought frequently enough that a great demand for morphs has surfaced.
Some popular corn snake morphs include:
– Albino Corn Snakes
– Okeetee Corn Snakes
– Snow Corn Snakes
– Black Corn Snakes
Color is a huge part of the corn snake market because their morphs are so versatile and beautiful. As you have probably noticed, Albino snakes are very popular.
This is because they lack certain pigments in their skin that allows them to give off color. The white properties of Albino snakes with their red eyes fascinates and compels buyers to them.
There are other snake breeds that have been bred for their morphs, but none are as commonly found as the Corn Snake and the Ball Python.
How many kinds of ball pythons are there? I have found that there have been over 1,000 known types of Ball Python. This great amount is due to the sheer number of morphs that have been created throughout the years. Just one simple difference in parentage can give a ball python a whole new category.
Can a ball python hurt you? The Ball Python is capable of inflicting injury on its owner. If proper precautions are taken and care instructions followed, then there shouldn’t be too much worry about your Ball Python hurting you. Always be aware of the possibility and handle with care.
What is “wild-type” snake breed? The term “wild-type” is used when referring to a snake that looks like what a typical snake of that breed is expected to look like if found in the wild. The antonym of “wild-type” is “morph” which refers to a genetic mutation.