Are reptile color mutations detrimental to the hobby?

JC

Arachnolort
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Anyone else agree that color mutations ("morphs") in reptiles are becoming petty fundaments for a lot reptile keepers? It seems to me that this focus on color mutation is more detrimental than beneficial and attracting the wrong crowd. Thoughts?
 

Anubis77

Arachnoknight
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As long as it keeps people captive breeding the animals instead of importing, I'm not against it. Some keepers aren't going to settle for normal forms. Others will make a business out of people's need for something different.

My only worry is with the inbreeding. What happens down the line? Can they always maintain the number of genetically deformed or weak animals low? I'm not very familiar with morph breeders' methods, so I won't say more.

I've always thought that the normal forms of reptiles were the best looking. The natural mutations aren't bad either. Keeping exotics is all about the natural aspect to me. It's contact with a product of nature, not a bumblepied hypomelanistic blue-eyed caramel midget. But whatever you're into. Some can end up looking pretty good, I'll admit, but not for me.
 

the toe cutter

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I agree anubis, the normal color forms are usually my favorite as well! I used to do alot with asian colubrids, elaphe and coelognathus in particular, and they albino color morphs are far lees attractive than the normal?! It amazed me to see people selling albino Kunashir Is ratsnakes, when the normals were a beautiful light sky blue with jade green motling down the back?! But people like certain traits and I have bred numerous corn morphs, but corns have over 90 different phenotypes for color traits and pattern. And alot of time like creamsicle corns for instance, are the breeding of an albino plains or emory ratsnake and a normal corn. Or breeding an anery and an albino will produce snows. There are many different combinations that do not require line breeding, or inbreeding, so most of the time its not much of an issue. Some morphs are naturally occuring, like bloodred and devils garden from FL, pewter corns from SC, and so on and so forth.
 

pitbulllady

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The color morphs can be a good way of finally getting respect for a species that has been traditionally overlooked and underrated, like the Water Snakes, for instance. No one would pay any attention to them at all until the first Hypos started to show up, and even still, it's been tough to overcome their reputation as vicious, nasty snakes. Ball Pythons were another species that most serious herpers shunned, due to the fact that they can be "trying" to say the least, to care for, even when captive-bred, but once those first "Ringers" popped up, and people realized that there might be a lot of potential there to get something really strange and different, look at what happened!

pitbulllady
 

Toirtis

Arachnobaron
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May 14, 2010
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What concerns me is the breeding for mutations/deformations being such a focus (which it will remain as long as mutations sell for big $)....things like translucent, scaleless bearded dragons, etc....
 

the toe cutter

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As long as the populations are maintained in captivity, there is not such a big deal. Plus scaleless Ratsnakes and the few Bitis species that are scaleless are horrific looking!
 

RoachGirlRen

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I think the key with breeding any species of animal is responsible breeding practices. When you are breeding anything, morph or not, the utmost attention has to be paid to eliminating defective individuals and lines from one's program, selecting for health and temperament where applicable. Because morph breeding often entails shrinking a gene pool, as selecting for any specific trait does, the chance of individuals with poor genetic health is compounded, making carefully controlled breeding more important.

I have met morph breeders on both ends of the spectrum. Some are truly just all about the money and breed regardless of the genetic or health problems likely to result from their pairings. I have an enigma leopard gecko with severe neurological and vision problems - problems linked specifically to that morph - that was bred (and his offspring sold) despite this by his breeder. However, it could easily be said that plenty of non-morph breeders are also just in it for the money, and pay equally poor attention to the genetic health of their animals.

I am also friends with a few very responsible morph breeders who carefully monitor the health of their lines, refuse to continue breeding animals that have throw deformed offspring even if they were pricey, and find adoptive non-breeding homes for defective animals so long as the quality of life hasn't been badly affected. I would expect this standard of care and consideration in ethical breeding regardless of if you are breeding a $5 hamster or a $5,000 ball python morph.

I personally am not fond of morphs; I think the genetics of it is fascinating, but I prefer animals with a natural appearence. But making a judgement of if morph breeding is "good" or "bad" is an oversimplification, IMO; instead, we should consider what constitutes responsible and irresponsible breeding, and support the former only.
 

Terry D

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I think the key with breeding any species of animal is responsible breeding practices. When you are breeding anything, morph or not, the utmost attention has to be paid to eliminating defective individuals and lines from one's program, selecting for health and temperament where applicable. Because morph breeding often entails shrinking a gene pool, as selecting for any specific trait does, the chance of individuals with poor genetic health is compounded, making carefully controlled breeding more important.

I have met morph breeders on both ends of the spectrum. Some are truly just all about the money and breed regardless of the genetic or health problems likely to result from their pairings. I have an enigma leopard gecko with severe neurological and vision problems - problems linked specifically to that morph - that was bred (and his offspring sold) despite this by his breeder. However, it could easily be said that plenty of non-morph breeders are also just in it for the money, and pay equally poor attention to the genetic health of their animals.

I am also friends with a few very responsible morph breeders who carefully monitor the health of their lines, refuse to continue breeding animals that have throw deformed offspring even if they were pricey, and find adoptive non-breeding homes for defective animals so long as the quality of life hasn't been badly affected. I would expect this standard of care and consideration in ethical breeding regardless of if you are breeding a $5 hamster or a $5,000 ball python morph.

I personally am not fond of morphs; I think the genetics of it is fascinating, but I prefer animals with a natural appearence. But making a judgement of if morph breeding is "good" or "bad" is an oversimplification, IMO; instead, we should consider what constitutes responsible and irresponsible breeding, and support the former only.
Ren, +1 and extremely-well-stated, opinionwise :). I've never bred anything personally with exception of a couple of L getulus ssp, and only normals at that. However, I believe that no matter how many aberrantly-patterned parents that throw deformed offspring are eliminated from such breeding regimens, there's still going to inherently be a MUCH higher percentage of deformed offspring due to genetic weakness than with normals. Having said that- If and when I ever try again it will probably (but not 100% guaranteed :D) be as before- normals only. My 2 cents

Terry
 

Dyn

Arachnobaron
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Its always going to be both.

It will help and it will also hurt the hobby.

I love retics they are my favorite snakes. So it will be easy to explain some of this using them.

There are a TON of morphs coming out for them. I generally dont really like alot of them that take away from the natural pattern. Tigers, Supertigers, golden child, ivories, titaniums I really dont care for any of these morphs. I love the normal locales and alot of the color morphs. There are a few exceptions. Anthrax being one of them. It gives them a VERY aberrant pattern but its VERY busy and doesnt reduce or take away the pattern.

I'd have to say my top 5 retics would be.

Sulawesi - beautiful locale
Anthrax
Caramel
Platinum
Leucistic


I dont agree with constant inbreeding for morphs though. It's easier to diversify the co-dom traits than the recessive though. Almost all morphs can be traced back to usually a single parent. Sometimes you get lucky and get a few wild caught individuals of the same morphs but they are most likely siblings anyway. The bad morphs that come to mind would be things like spider balls with their head wobble, Caramel albino balls are likely to have kinks in their spine if i remember correctly, and albino burms usually have poor health and get sick easily and ive seen quite a few with one eye.
 

neubii18

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to everyone who's says they're not big into color morphs.have you ever seen a RAPTOr leopard gecko with solid red eyes,completely patternless orange body,and a carrot tail atleast 80%?frieken amazing if you ask me!
 

RoachGirlRen

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Sadly, that "beauty" often comes at a price. Leopard gecko morphs with apigmentation of the eyes typically are extremely photosensitive and nearsighted, and blindness seems to be more prevelant in these varieties as well. For a very visual predator like a leopard gecko, this is problematic.
 

groovyspider

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hosently i beleave its kinda more of a candy effect ok say youve got your twix ok you had it for a while and all the sudden someone comes up with a snickers and you like hey i want in on that so you get that. then someone comes with a 3 musketters and wouldnt you know it your going after that and it continues until the regulars will be considered un needed and eventually years and ears of mutation will probably kill the species off and then look at that you just had to get that kit kat huh could not have stayed with twix it was special enough but no not for you... well thats my opion call me wrong call me what ever but thats how i feel - anthony
 

Dyn

Arachnobaron
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hosently i beleave its kinda more of a candy effect ok say youve got your twix ok you had it for a while and all the sudden someone comes up with a snickers and you like hey i want in on that so you get that. then someone comes with a 3 musketters and wouldnt you know it your going after that and it continues until the regulars will be considered un needed and eventually years and ears of mutation will probably kill the species off and then look at that you just had to get that kit kat huh could not have stayed with twix it was special enough but no not for you... well thats my opion call me wrong call me what ever but thats how i feel - anthony
Not really. Pure locales are always big sellers for alot of snakes. Boas (surinames guyanas and peruvians being three nice ones.) Retics (bali yellowheads, sulawesi, javas, and a ton of other ones) Green tree pythons theres some locales that go yellow some that are green and some that are even blue.
 

pouchedrat

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Color morphs and mutations always fascinate me for any animal. I agree with responsible breeding (regardless of species), there are many morphs that can cause problems with the animal, but those might be worked out.

Albinism has always been my sole fascination, as has hairlessness. There are extremes out there like rhino mice, where the mice cannot lactate to nurse their young, have a hard time breeding, their eyelashes curl inwards into their eyeballs, their toenails curl and act as velcro so if you don't clip them and they walk on fabric it can rip the nails right out, they need to be washed between folds of their skin, they form dermal cysts EVERYWHERE and that's actually PART of the mutation, need higher protein and cannot be kept in a cold room, etc. I had two females once, and they didn't even live past a few months.

I sort of learned with those two mice, how horrific it can be when mutations are taken to extremes. I still think color morphs and mutations are often extremely fascinating, but when it's that detrimental to the health of the animal, and those faulty parts cannot be successfully bred out of it, then it's just not worth it for them to suffer that much just for something bizarre and unusual to be kept as a pet. Like some snakes born with popped-out eyes, or born eyeless, things like that. When people are just trying to turn out a profit and aren't caring for actually perfecting that gene or that species, then it's detrimental.
 

Terry D

Arachnodemon
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Good one!

hosently i beleave its kinda more of a candy effect ok say youve got your twix ok you had it for a while and all the sudden someone comes up with a snickers and you like hey i want in on that so you get that. then someone comes with a 3 musketters and wouldnt you know it your going after that and it continues until the regulars will be considered un needed and eventually years and ears of mutation will probably kill the species off and then look at that you just had to get that kit kat huh could not have stayed with twix it was special enough but no not for you... well thats my opion call me wrong call me what ever but thats how i feel - anthony
Groovyspider for the win! {D{D{D{D{D{D
 

Neill

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Aug 20, 2010
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I'm a bit of a Puritan when it comes to animals.. The only thing I can say that is good about all the artificial/instigated morphism that is in the reptile world, is this - If it helps to protect the 'real' species in the wild, then it is a good thing.

Not all dogs were like my Shih Tzu or Lurcher millennia ago.
 

neubii18

Arachnosquire
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one leoaprd gecko morph that i don't agree with is the enigma though.i refuse to get one,as they do not funtion well at all.some can't even walk straight,and they spin when stressed.not fun at all!
 

Jmugleston

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I used to be of the "purist" mindset, and for some species I still am. The main argument against this is we have only a small glimpse into the natural variation of our animals. Take jungle carpet pythons (Morelia spilota cheynei) for example. In captivity, our "pure" jungle carpets don't look much like what you see in the field. They are more colorful, bigger, and most likely originate from only a small sample of the wild population. Also, snakes like that which have been in the hobby for years with very little influx of wild genes (Australia has been closed off for decades now) may not have had the stringent collectors being sure that the subspecies remained separate. In this case the hobby JCP doesn't match the wild JCP. So is line breeding remaining pure? I think our various breeds of domestic dogs answer that one for us.

Another example is the acanthurus monitors. There are still some out there that will stand behind the thoughts that there are 2 species in the hobby. The red ackie (Varanus acanthurus acanthurus) and the yellow ackie (Varanus acanthurus brachyurus). Though if you try to key them out, they won't fit the descriptions in the literature. What's worse is that most that research monitors will agree that Varanus acanthurus actually represents a species complex made up of multiple similar looking species. So a "pure" red ackie most likely represents a line bred lizard that we have selected for various traits.

My point is that our concept of "pure" in the hobby doesn't always fit what we see in the wild. We have a small subset and early breeding attempts may have made it so that the lines are not as specific as we would like to think.

I don't think morphs are bad for the hobby in all cases. Take reticulated pythons for example. Most people 20 years ago had burms if they had a giant snake. Retics were known for being "nasty" so most shied away from them. Once more people started keeping them, it was learned that they are not bad snakes. The catalyst for people keeping them was the morph craze. Once the morphs started popping up more people gained interest and it is now a common snake for those that like the giants (for good or bad depending on your position on giant snakes). The morphs have also spurred the selection for a smaller size with the dwarf variants. The goal is all the fun of a retic in a smaller size. The morphs have helped this snake in my opinion.

For my collection it comes down to the species in question. Some species we keep in order to preserve "pure" bloodlines for a locality or subspecies. Others we have morphs in order to select for a better pet. I don't mind morphs provided the natural bloodlines are still being preserved by a number of breeders, or if the natural population is in good standing. If an animal is rare I think it is better to focus on preserving the natural diversity instead of popping out mutants.
 
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