Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

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tspuckler
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Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by tspuckler »

These were all found this week within a 500 foot radius at a boardline that I have in NE Ohio. I've probably seen 50-60 individual garter snakes there (as well as a few Eastern Milks and DeKay's). The photos give an idea as to some of their different "looks."

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Richard F. Hoyer
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Richard F. Hoyer »

tspuckler:
Am I correct in assuming all snake photos are of the Common Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis?

It is my understanding that this type of color polymorphism (if that is the correct terminology) occurs in a good number of species of snakes. For instance, here in western Oregon, a similar situation occurs with the Northwestern Garter Snake, Thamnophis ordinoides. Where one finds an aggregation of several to many specimens, few if any snakes are identical in basic ground color, striping, and blotching. It is as if you have come across a number of different species all together.

Further south along the coast of SW Oregon to central Calif., I believe a similar scenario occurs with the Wandering Garter Snake, Thamnophis elegans. Perhaps Dr. Sam Sweet would chime in with a more professional assessment. (See his post on a pattern variant in C. oreganus.)

Richard F. Hoyer (Corvallis, Oregon)

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tspuckler
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by tspuckler »

Richard,

Yes, all the same subspecies of Common Garter Snake. I've found Coast Garter Snakes to be variable as well, but not within a specific spot, where there usually tends to be one or two "looks." And I agree that it occurs in a good number of snakes - yet it's still fun to document.

Tim

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John Williams
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by John Williams »

That is one of the best pictures ever posted on this site. Fantastic.

luv_the_smellof_musk
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by luv_the_smellof_musk »

Very cool. So many beautiful forms of garters with reds and blues being my favorites. If they weren't native to here and common, far more people would be obsessed with them lol

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Bostaff of Asclepius
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Bostaff of Asclepius »

My oh my, that photo is the stuff of dreams :crazyeyes:

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Tim Borski
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Tim Borski »

I dig the variations of Eastern Garters! Thanks for giving us a look.

Tim

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Don Becker
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Don Becker »

Some of those Garter Snakes look like Milk Snakes.

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TravisK
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by TravisK »

That last picture looks like the herper equivalent of a jar full of jelly beans where we win something by guessing the correct number of snakes :shock: I think I might just pass out if I ever flip some AC and see that many snakes all at once. Very nice :thumb:

Zach_Lim
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Zach_Lim »

I really got to head out your way, Tim...

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mikem
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by mikem »

TravisK wrote:That last picture looks like the herper equivalent of a jar full of jelly beans where we win something by guessing the correct number of snakes :shock: I think I might just pass out if I ever flip some AC and see that many snakes all at once. Very nice :thumb:
Haha, I'd probably have the same reaction! Love the garters! Thanks for sharing them with us :thumb:

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ZantiMissKnit
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by ZantiMissKnit »

tspuckler wrote:Richard,

Yes, all the same subspecies of Common Garter Snake. I've found Coast Garter Snakes to be variable as well, but not within a specific spot, where there usually tends to be one or two "looks." And I agree that it occurs in a good number of snakes - yet it's still fun to document.

Tim

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I remember when this picture was going around Facebook, and it is no less spectacular now than it was then.

We have some amazing variations in Massachusetts as well:

ImageDSCN1364 by ZantiMissKnit, on Flickr

ImageDSCN5628 by ZantiMissKnit, on Flickr

ImageDSC_0033 by ZantiMissKnit, on Flickr

ImageDSCN8515 by ZantiMissKnit, on Flickr

ImageDisappearing dorsal stripe by ZantiMissKnit, on Flickr

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pjfishpa
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by pjfishpa »

Very cool post. I notice a wide variety in them over here as well. Hognose too. Great pics, thanks for putting this post together.

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David O
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by David O »

Until I get access back to my ftp server, a link to my blog will have to do:

Garters from NW Ohio.

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ZantiMissKnit
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by ZantiMissKnit »

Here is one of the very red garters from Oneida County, New York.

ImageDSCN2213 by ZantiMissKnit, on Flickr

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Knightkrawler5
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Knightkrawler5 »

A Wisconsin Eastern

ImageEastern Garter Snake by beefstu6586, on Flickr

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ZantiMissKnit
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by ZantiMissKnit »

WHOA!!! That blue dorsal stripe!

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PsychedelicTarantula
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by PsychedelicTarantula »

This is an awesome thread. I'm a definitely a Thamnophis fan.

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Knightkrawler5
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Knightkrawler5 »

West Tennessee Eastern

ImageEastern Garter Snake by beefstu6586, on Flickr

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Owen
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Owen »

Very cool post. Reminds me of the variation we have in the Coast Garters out here in the SF Bay Area.

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tspuckler
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by tspuckler »

Here's one that I found in Ottawa County (OH) in May of this year.
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CrimsonCoils
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by CrimsonCoils »

New Jersey Pinelands -

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Southeast Pennsylvania -

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ZantiMissKnit
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by ZantiMissKnit »

This is my favorite post of the summer. :thumb:

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AndyA1031
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by AndyA1031 »

This is one of the more interesting garter snakes I've seen- this is a brick-red individual found on the eastern shore of MD back in 2010.

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pjfishpa
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by pjfishpa »

Another melanistic one from NW Ohio.

T sirtalis (melanistic)
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Tamara D. McConnell
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Tamara D. McConnell »

From south Alabama, last year:
Imagegarter by Tamara McConnell1, on Flickr
Imagegarter in grass by Tamara McConnell1, on Flickr
Baby, from 2012:
Imagegarter by Tamara McConnell1, on Flickr

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Trey
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Trey »

That orange one from bama is a stunner!

I am amazed by the amount of garters in (far) NE ohio. Everytime I am out/ up there, it seems like theres no way Im seeing less than 50 of them.

Kfen
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Kfen »

This was a cool post, I love the variety. When I was a little kid and solely id'ing stuff from the pics in the Audubon field guide, I thought I was finding several species of garter snakes around my grandparents house in upstate NY. Only as I got older did I realize they were all the same.

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Noah M
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Noah M »

All three are Thamnophis sirtalis

Here is a blue one from the gulf coast down here
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Here is one from my garden in central Florida
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And here is another one from central FL with a more checkered pattern.

Image

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Tim Borski
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Tim Borski »

OMG Tamara!! That first one orange one is the stuff!! Maybe I'll throw some up in a bit.
Tim

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Tim Borski
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Tim Borski »

Here's a few from the Midwest.



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Tim

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BillMcGighan
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by BillMcGighan »

All this diversity, especially of the eastern race, is great.

TB
That first one orange one is the stuff!!
I have to second that.


Tim, your 3rd is pretty impressive too!

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Noah M
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Noah M »

I like the blue and yellow ones Tim put up towards the end of his post.

I almost forgot, I have an Indiana garter to share.

Image

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PrimitiveTim
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by PrimitiveTim »

This is a pretty typical garter from the east coast of central Florida.

Image

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tspuckler
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by tspuckler »

Some spectacular stuff being posted here! This is my favorite out-of-state Eastern Garter Snake - from Union County, IL.
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Zach_Lim
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Zach_Lim »

New favorite thread

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Mike VanValen
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Mike VanValen »

I thought this guy had some nice colors. Fairfield County, CT.

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...and this one seemed to glow. Fairfield County, CT.

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Classic striped. Middlesex County, CT.

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Noah M
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Noah M »

Seems like there are only a few colors they don't represent. So far I have seen:

Green
Yellow
Orange
Brown
Blue
Red
Black
Tan
Cream

If anybody has a purple one, then I think that about covers the available colors.

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jonathan
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by jonathan »

Here's another Eastern a bit different from the ones posted. I would say, "Why isn't that a red-sided?", but all the maps say Eastern.

Image

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ZantiMissKnit
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by ZantiMissKnit »

Here's a stunner from PA that Kyle Loucks flipped last May.

ImageDSC_0044 by Andrea, on Flickr

John Williams
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by John Williams »

A few coastal Texas animals

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intermedius
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by intermedius »

Individual Sirtalis that I have found in Cape May County, NJ have a substantial amount of red. This might be due to residue tannin. Another Pine Barrens specimen that sadly slid away before I could photographed it was a gorgeous rusty red.

ImageEastern Garter Snake by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageEastern Garter Snake by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

Specimens near my area in Mercer County, NJ can vary somewhat. Here are some that I have found underneath my board lines. Most of them are speckled with lots of spotting and large vertebral stripes. I rarely see garters with the classic black dorsum and yellow stripes pattern. A few Garter's I've had under my boards showed some substantial amounts of red or mahogany.

ImageEastern Gartersnakes by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageEastern Gartersnake by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageYearling Eastern Gartersnake by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

Specimens I have found in Maryland seemed to have the same dominant color, but some seem to be more "spotty" than others.

ImageEastern Gartersnake by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageEastern Gartersnake by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr



There are also some interesting publications regarding Garter Snake polymorphism and color variation. Some populations that are melanistic seem to be Mendelian in their inheritance of color patterns. I haven't had the time to read all of these, but they all seem to be good reads. Mooi et al. (2011) is the newest and is pretty interesting.

Carpenter, C. C. 1954. The presence and variation of lateral red coloration in a population of common garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis). Herpetologica 10:89–91.

Fitch, H. S. 1941. Geographic variation in garter snakes of the species Thamnophis sirtalis in the Pacific Coast region of North America. American Midland Naturalist 26:570–592.

King, R. B. 1988. Polymorphic populations of the garter snake Thamnophis sirtalis near Lake Erie. Herpetologica 44:451–458.

King, R. B. 2003. Mendelian inheritance of melanism in the garter snake Thamnophis sirtalis. Herpetologica 59:486–489.

Lawson, R. and R. B. King. 1996. Gene flow and melanism in Lake Erie garter snake populations. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 59:1–19.

Mooi, R. D., Wiens, J. P., & Casper, G. S. (2011). Extreme color variation within populations of the Common Gartersnake, Thamnophis sirtalis, in central North America, with implications for subspecies status. Copeia, 2011(2), 187-200.

Placyk, J. S., G. M. Burghardt, R. L. Small, R. B. King, G. S. Casper, and J. W. Robinson. 2007. Post-glacial recolonization of the Great Lakes region by the common gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis) inferred from mtDNA sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 43:452–467.

Westphal, M. 2007. On the evolution of correlated color traits in Garter Snakes. Unpubl. Ph.D. diss., Oregon State University, Portland, Oregon.

Westphal, M. and T. Morgan. 2010. Quantitative genetics of pigmentation development in 2 populations of the Common Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis. Journal of Heredity 101:573–580.


Regardless, Garter Snakes are awesome. I myself am guilty of not appreciating them to their full level.

- Justin

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Trey
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by Trey »

Crappy picture of a nice one from Ohio

ImageT. sirtalis by Trey Keyes, on Flickr

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tspuckler
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Re: Color and Pattern Variations in Eastern Garter Snakes

Post by tspuckler »

Here's a series from last summer of snakes from the very same spot as my original post:

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