New corn snake and a debate...

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birdinggal
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New corn snake and a debate...

Post by birdinggal » November 2nd, 2013, 6:38 pm

I just got a new baby albino Corn Snake. This is the first snake I've had in about 5 - 7 years and my first corn so first off any and all advice is welcome. The debate is over whether or not my new baby is actually albino or not. I was told he is an albino by the breeder, but my friend says he is amelanistic but not truly albino. Can someone please clear this up for me? I am just curious and if possible would like to be right as a matter of pride. Here are a couple photos of my new baby:
Image
Image
Thanks!

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Kelly Mc
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by Kelly Mc » November 2nd, 2013, 8:27 pm

Its the same. A gene defect that expresses itself in a lack or reduction of melanin. In the reptile hobby for some reason it has been forgotten that its a defect, often pleiotropic as it is with other animals, and popular names for its variable expressions have been coined for entrepreneur value.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by Kelly Mc » November 3rd, 2013, 5:48 pm

Someone else here can help you in better detail, in identifying what morph your bright little baby is. Baby Corns are the best.

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birdinggal
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by birdinggal » November 3rd, 2013, 6:20 pm

Thanks Kelly for your help! I'm very curious to learn everything I can about him and his corny relatives. I don't know if at his age you can really see what morph he is, but I don't know a whole lot about it. I mostly just need the validation that he is truly albino so I can tell my friend.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by Kelly Mc » November 3rd, 2013, 6:50 pm

Yeah I dont know as much as i should about morph guys either. I do know that the snake you have is Lucky though. That I can tell.

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Sam Bacchini
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by Sam Bacchini » November 4th, 2013, 3:27 pm

As Kelly said it's basically the same thing. In a nutshell, albinism is kind of a collective term for a series of genetic defects/mutations that result in the lack of expression of one or more pigments. In the case of your snake, the pigment it lacks is melanin (black, brown) hence the term amelanistic, but it still has reds and yellows. Anerythristic (anery) is the lack of red, axanthic is the lack of yellow. If the snake has all three mutations it is esentially white. All of these are what is referred to as single locus (i.e., gene) rescessive mutations. There are a lot of other mutations that contribute to the various morphs out there, but the genetics can get a lot more complicated to explain.

Bottom line, while it is more technically correct to refer to your snake as an amelanistic, its ok to call it an albino.

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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by VICtort » November 4th, 2013, 7:45 pm

Thanks bird gal for bringing this up and kudos to Gila-91 for providing such a succinct explanation of the common forms of albinism we see in captive herps. I am amazed at the kaleidoscope of corn snake morphs, and I recall hearing about the first wild caught albino corn snake, a big event at the time. Despite 45 years of herp keeping, I have never had a corn snake or albino reptile , so I learned something here.
Good luck, I hope it grows big and strong

For you experienced corn snake breeders and fanciers, albinism and other morphs are often
a gene defect, and may be associated with other defective or atypical genes. Are these albino forms as hardy and vigorous as those morphs more similar to common wild type morphs? I remember hearing that a leucistic(?) strain of what were once called Texas ratsnakes often had eye defects ...not just pigment, but abnormal bulging.


Vic

rtdunham
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by rtdunham » November 4th, 2013, 9:14 pm

I've read the term "albino" was coined for mammals, most have which have only melanin pigment. So an animal lacking melanin (technically, amelanistic) would be white. These were called albinos.

While the previous posts are technically correct, precision is always preferred. Obviously, the red rat snake that prompted this thread is not white. Many of us would prefer to call it an amelanistic, and avoid the confusion the term "albino" might cause, for people who associate that term with "white". On an amelanistic, only the parts of the pattern that would normally be black will be white, as is the case on the corn snake in this thread.

As for color morphs being defects, and the fear of them being associated with other defects, I think the technical response is: Pooh.

Consider on humans: blue eyes, or red hair. Mutations. Associated with defects threatening an organism's health? I don't think so. There are three simple recessive color morphs for Honduran Milksnakes, for example; more than that number for red rats; tens of thousands, almost certainly hundreds of thousands or more, of these two animals have been produced, and I'm aware of no genetic defect having been associated with them, other than the color change.

Is there a foundation for that fear? Well, if a color morph is the result of a clutch of eggs being irradiated, for example, prompting a genetic 'defect"/mutation that alters the animal's colors, yes, the irradiation might prompt other mutations too, some of which might affect health. But those harmful mutations/defects could also have occurred on an animal that did not undergo a color mutation. The general, rare appearance of a color morph need have no such associations. Anyone who's "line bred" birds, for example, is selecting mutations to improve subsequent generations--to produce larger birds, birds with broader chests, whatever. Evolution is a process of mutations, with those that foster improved survivability--the fittest--winning the battle for space on earth. That's natural selection.

One last thought: The many different colubrid snakes in Northern America differ in color because of color and other mutations in the past. Yet those varied colors have survived, and have out-survived others that emerged but failed to compete, and are lost to us. That hardly suggests a natural relationship between color mutations and "bad" mutations.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by Kelly Mc » November 4th, 2013, 10:18 pm

rtdunham wrote:
As for color morphs being defects, and the fear of them being associated with other defects, I think the technical response is: Pooh.


It might be interesting for you to perhaps research albinism and pleiotropy. After that we could discuss actual in hand experiences of thousands of cb colubrids - from panoramically diverse breeders and sources, that clearly note a higher frequency of spinal kinks, smaller hatchling size, and weaker constitution that sometimes can be nursed along out, but is markedly apparent, in albino aka amel snakes.



Kelly McDougall

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gbin
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by gbin » November 5th, 2013, 5:29 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:... we could discuss actual in hand experiences of thousands of cb colubrids...
I think you're going to find that rtdunham has substantial experience, Kelly - enough to be considered quite an expert in this area.

As I understand the situation (in animals in general, not snakes in particular), albinism can sometimes be linked to deleterious traits, but in the great majority of cases the combination is due simply to too much inbreeding combined with too little culling going on by breeders. Albinos encountered in nature aren't often found to suffer various related maladies, and breeders who are careful with their stock (yes, including those pursuing highly refined designer morphs) don't have much of a problem in this regard, either. Mind you, I'm not going to comment on the percentage of breeders who are careful with their stock beyond asserting that some such do indeed exist!

Gerry

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Kelly Mc
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by Kelly Mc » November 5th, 2013, 8:11 pm

Yeah i dont really care who people are or look them up to see if i shouldnt disagree with them. I have no agenda and I feel comfortable sharing my views. Ive worked in reptile industry since 1981, with interims in zoo and wild rehab work.

Nothing I posted is untrue.

Side note is someone seeking help bought a baby mandarin ratsnake over the internet from an established, famous guy on the internet. Half off! But it wouldnt eat. He brought it in and it was kinked. Several kinks. Very noticable. Albinism wasnt a factor.

I tubed the snake some nourishment and hopefully he will eat on his own soon. But I dont think the Expert Breeder could have missed the kinks.

So no, i dont fall disciple like and fawning, or afraid to state my experiences.

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gbin
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by gbin » November 5th, 2013, 8:36 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:Yeah i dont really care who people are or look them up to see if i shouldnt disagree with them. I have no agenda and I feel comfortable sharing my views...

... i dont fall disciple like and fawning, or afraid to state my experiences.
And I don't think you should be or do otherwise (so if you took me differently you misunderstood me), Kelly. Each of us should feel free to express and defend our own views, absolutely, and these shouldn't be based on who we hang aound with/avoid, like/dislike, or whatever.

I was just trying to advise you that you're on the wrong track in thinking rtdunham doesn't have expertise in this area. I didn't explicitly say it, but of course I also think s/he deserves to be heard with an open mind, too, just as do we all. ;) All of us are prone to putting our biases ahead of more rational thought, but we should guard against the practice.

To bring the discussion back to the topic at hand: As the old saying goes, "correlation does not equal causality." I agree that there is often a high degree of correlation between albinism in captive animal stocks and various heritable maladies, but that doesn't mean the albinism causes the maladies. It seems pretty clear, in fact, that careful breeding can generally propagate albinism (or many other morphological traits) in a captive animal stock without bringing said maladies along for the ride. Poor breeding can and should be condemned as poor breeding, but there's no apparent scientific basis for viewing the production of albinos as proof of poor breeding. That's all I'm saying.

Gerry

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Kelly Mc
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by Kelly Mc » November 5th, 2013, 9:13 pm

Where did I say or imply that Terry didnt have expertise?

I didnt even say how across board genetic problems are downplayed by the hobby in general.

Because they sell. Pleiotropy associated with albinism is well founded in genetic science. I didnt make it up. Its not my opinion. I noticed it though before I knew what it was.

I never invited any one to argue. If you read what I posted, it was posted without any emotive content. I feel indifferent mostly about morph making - but feel the emphasis on albinos aka amels, or ball pythons without scales, well to each his own.

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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by rtdunham » November 5th, 2013, 9:29 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:
rtdunham wrote:
As for color morphs being defects, and the fear of them being associated with other defects, I think the technical response is: Pooh.


It might be interesting for you to perhaps research albinism and pleiotropy. After that we could discuss actual in hand experiences of thousands of cb colubrids - froms,panoramically diverse breeders and source that clearly note a higher frequency of spinal kinks, smaller hatchling size, and weaker constitution that sometimes can be nursed along out, but is markedly apparent, in albino aka amel snakes.



Kelly McDougall
I hoped to suggest with my overly-simplistic "pooh" evaluation that I approach this question as a herpetoculturist, not a research scientist. I've limited time tonight because i'm about to leave town, but will briefly address two parts of your quite different response (research, on the one hand, and your anecdotal accounts on the other). I'll be back to the thread as soon as possible.

The first google result I found on pleiotropy was the excerpt 1) below, from Nature. As I read it, it's saying yeah, you may find concurrent color morphology and behavioral change (substitute for behavioral other genetic changes, some of which may be undesirable) BUT, the piece says, it's important to be sure those concurrences are not the obvious result of common origins. In terms of our discussion, i think the point he's making is that yes, you could start with a pair of amelanistic (or het amel) corns, let's say, and perhaps they're both het in addition to a defective gene for bulging eyes, or a broken band on the 14th dorsal blotch. Yes, might 3rd or 4th generation line-bred animals exhibit both the amelanism and one of the other traits? Yes. Might they also--depending on the genotype of the originating pair--exhibit unusual robustness or a lower dorsal-blotch count? Yes. What I'm saying--see below-- is that I'm not aware of any defects linked specifically to amelanism ("albininism") in corns or honduran milkshakes. Obviously, your results may vary, as in the stock market.

1) THE analysis of the effects of single genes on behaviour may yield information not only about the genetics of behavioral characters, but about the characters themselves1. When, however, data are collected on segregating populations for a few generations apparent single gene effects may be due to the effects of closely linked loci, especially when these populations are derived from an initial cross of parental strains which differ widely in the character in question. Thus when apparent major-gene effects are found, it is important to verify that such effects are truly pleiotropic.

2) I too have "actual in hand experiences of thousands of cb colubrids" and all I can say is my experiences differ from yours. Yes, I've seen kinked snakes. Yes, I've seen other defects. And I've seen them--always on rare occasions--on amelanistics, anerythristics, hypomelanistics, and normals; I've seen them--also rarely--on wild-type phenotypes in species or subspecies that, at the time, had not yet produced any color morphs, so cannot be said to have been het for any, though that is always a possibility. I've also found kinks on wild-caught, "normal" phenotype snakes.

I'm disadvantaged here, because i respect your contributions here, yet we seem at odds on this issue. I'm always willing to learn. You say your experiences "clearly note a higher frequency of spinal kinks, smaller hatchling size, and weaker constitution that sometimes can be nursed along out, but is markedly apparent, in albino aka amel snakes." May I ask to what extent that is anecdotal, and to what extent you've kept records, producing results showing higher percentages of those diverse defects in amelanistics compared to other color morphs or wild-type phenotypes?

Bottom line, you may be right. All I'm saying is based on what sounds like comparable numbers, I never saw such a correlation, and none was ever reported to me from customers who, one would assume, would have quickly pointed it out. If you were reporting observations based only on your own breeding collection, I'd write it off as each of us accurately reporting experiences in different groups. But the fact yours came from "panoramically diverse breeders and sources" does, I'll admit, discredit that possible explanation. I'll be interested to hear what others have observed, and most interested in any scientific reports documenting an association between amels of these species and kinks/smaller hatchling size/weaker constitution. Cheers.

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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by rtdunham » November 5th, 2013, 9:35 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:Where did I say or imply that Terry didnt have expertise?

I didnt even say how across board genetic problems are downplayed by the hobby in general.

Because they sell. Pleiotropy associated with albinism is well founded in genetic science. I didnt make it up. Its not my opinion. I noticed it though before I knew what it was.

I never invited any one to argue. If you read what I posted, it was posted without any emotive content. I feel indifferent mostly about morph making - but feel the emphasis on albinos aka amels, or ball pythons without scales, well to each his own.
One more quick post, because you posted while I was composing my (too long) prior post!

No argument, as far as I'm concerned, just a curiosity for "the truth". Am I being lazy to ask that you post a link or two to the papers you're aware of showing "Pleiotropy associated with albinism is well founded in genetic science"? I'm genuinely interested. It'd be particularly useful if the citation refers to snakes, even better if Lampropeltis or Pantherophis, but that's almost certainly hoping for too much. Cheers.

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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by Kelly Mc » November 5th, 2013, 10:04 pm

No, Im not going to try to prove the existance of of it or hunt up links. Yes I know that not all albinos are pleiotropic.

Terry my knowledge of morph genetics is probably unsurpassed by my personal interests in the area. You know much more than I - but yes I recieved many snakes from many breeders and dealers for many years, and having no reason or desire to infuse any bias, I have looked through the Lots and sent back the weak and abnormally conformed, clipped the little Z shaped tail tips and betadined them and kept them on paper towels, so that the buyer/client wouldnt get stuck with having to micro manage the animals sheds so that they wouldnt end up dried and necrotic, and yes the platform of sources has been broad. I did not "Diagnose" their etiology. But I did notice a higher frequency of albino specimens with these problems.

I want to interject for a moment - that the spirit of my input here is wholesome - please dont read a tone, i am appreciative of the gracious response.

So not to go on too much, what i have noticed lately in the past decade, the incidence of abnormal conformities, domed heads, small size, kinks etc, of Normal phase and non visual (in pigment & pattern) specimens (again from many different sources) has increased considerably. This is just an observation from someone with boots on the ground. Im not a biologist or anyone important on the scene.

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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by Sam Bacchini » November 6th, 2013, 1:30 am

Kelly Mc wrote:So not to go on too much, what i have noticed lately in the past decade, the incidence of abnormal conformities, domed heads, small size, kinks etc, of Normal phase and non visual (in pigment & pattern) specimens (again from many different sources) has increased considerably. This is just an observation from someone with boots on the ground. Im not a biologist or anyone important on the scene.
Someone stated earlier, and I agree, that these defects are more likely the result of long term inbreeding rather than a harmful trait associated with the color morph. Periodic outbreeding can usually prevent the frequency of such defects in a captive population. There are of course some morphs that are known to carry lethal genes in certain circumstances (e.g., "super motley" boas).

All that being said I would like to point out that I am not really a morph fan in general. I don't mind them necessarily, but for the most part they don't interest me all that much (I prefer natural forms).

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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by Kelly Mc » November 6th, 2013, 4:08 am

See this is what i notice, in discussions of inconvenient , or undesired consequences. No offense meant to any one, not you Gila, not anyone, but there seems to be a tendency with reptile issues in particular, that is not seen as much in other animal husbandries, or in medicine, of Either/Or type of default thinking. If one Causal factor is a buzzkill or casts an unfavorable shadow what was otherwise advantageous to ignore - then other factors are brought in debate style in an attempt to moot the other factor. But biological realities arent insular and neat. One cause that a person can control doesnt blot out another cause that a person cant, or doesnt want to.

Consanguinity effects doesnt beat out Pleiotropic albinism, like its allel poker. Both exist, and one can with or without the other factor, including the potential of an exacerbating role. I notice this in many other herpetoculture topics as well, more so than in other disciplines.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by Kelly Mc » November 6th, 2013, 4:49 am

I remember when "Lutino" cockatiels became the big thing. There were clutches popping up where the babies had no legs - they were a smooth as an egg underneath. These lines were easily culled, as the problems were so obvious.

Birds generally will not survive with deficits, intestinal or other organ system deformities. They have energy needs that require sound organ function, immediently, constantly.

But not so with snakes. They can tolerate long periods without eating. A malformed liver or missing portion of gut tract therefore goes untested by normal means - discreetly folded away and undiscovered. A snake is more than its color or pattern or spinal conformity. Theres a whole lot of snake going on underneath. If more research was done and it was discovered that hi morphs had deformities in organ systems, and that the marginal anomalies still enabled the animal to metabolize food, grow and breed, what would the reaction from the herp community be? Is making them look different and different and different again on the outside the more important thing?

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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by gbin » November 7th, 2013, 8:28 am

Harmful or otherwise undesirable heritable traits will appear in any captive breeding program, not just those aimed at producing albinos. They routinely appear in the wild, too, where natural selection weeds them out. Correspondingly, the proper response in a captive breeding program is to (maintain pedigrees and) cull assiduously. The possibility that a trait someone is selecting for has unwanted pleiotropic effects certainly complicates things, but it doesn't change this basic approach. Assuming that a negative trait is a pleiotropic effect of targeted breeding where actual evidence for such a relationship is lacking is akin to "throwing the baby out with the bath water." Breeders should be alert to the possibility and watch for evidence of it in their pedigrees, yes, but that doesn't mean they should simply assume it and shut their programs down to avoid it.

It should probably be pointed out, too, that irresponsible breeding is common in all domestic animal stocks, not just designer snakes. There are good, conscientious breeders working with snakes as well, just as there are working with other animals. They deserve to be treated as per their individual (de)merits, not disparaged en masse.

Lastly, I understand the concern about hidden defects being bred into snakes, but I must say that for my part I don't particularly share it. If a captive animal displays good growth, reproduction and longevity, just how serious could its unseen defects be? And why should people feel particularly compelled to do anything about them? Every single living organism on earth has both strengths and weaknesses in its anatomy and physiology - "none of us is perfect" in the most literal sense - but at least those in captivity (hopefully) have a supportive rather than uncaring environment in which to live out their days. Heck, numerous long-established and much-loved (by some, anyway) pet breeds have respiratory, gastrointestinal, spinal and/or locomotory issues by intent, not because breeders want animals to suffer but because they and the people who obtain pets from them have decided that these are acceptable shortcomings in combination with the animals' other traits, and can be accommodated in their supportive captive environment. I'm not about to run out and get an English bulldog at least in part because their breathing difficulty does bother me, but neither am I about to condemn people for breeding and owning them; so far as I can tell, overall English bulldogs and the people associated with them are getting along just fine no matter what I might think of the breed.

Gerry

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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by ThomWild » November 7th, 2013, 10:29 am

Interesting discussion. I have had a couple of questions come to mind as I have read through the responses. The first is how the founder effect plays into this discussion? Are snake morphs analogous to different human populations that exhibit "founder effects" (e.g. polydactyly in some Amish communities)? Next question is how locality lines fit into this discussion? Have there been any evidences in say alterna that resemble what is being attributed to morphs?

-Thomas

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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by BillMcGighan » November 15th, 2013, 11:44 am

Interesting discussion.
To the OP you will probably have a fine long-lived corn with proper care.


It was my understanding in a similar discussion about 6 years ago that no researcher had yet found any direct link with leucistic mutation and any other health problems, but, like the early work with leucistic Texas Rats, there was a perceived connection to an eye anomaly.

Most captive reptile morphs are based on mutations that are, more often than not, the result of a recessive trait. The very act of controlled inbreeding requires carefully breeding the mutant with normals and back to hets or full mutants to demonstrate the desired mutation.

The issue then becomes that you are breeding in a tiny gene pool for the recessive trait you can see, and very well may get some you can’t see; some neutral, some injurious.


One can see breeding dogs properly for a trait like a long or short muzzle, and end up with a breed that looks perfect, but has heart problems and tends to have a short lifespan. The muzzle length probably wasn’t even recessive and probably was not linked to the heart in any way, but the original stock had a recessive “small heart” gene that manifested itself from the inbreeding.

As Gila said
defects are more likely the result of long term inbreeding rather than a harmful trait associated with the color morph. Periodic outbreeding can usually prevent the frequency of such defects in a captive population.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by Kelly Mc » November 15th, 2013, 3:29 pm

So what you are saying is, that pleiotropic albinism in CB snakes, does not exist, because of the careful inbreeding and genetic knowledge of breeders. Is that what you are saying?

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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by BillMcGighan » November 15th, 2013, 4:16 pm

So what you are saying is, that pleiotropic albinism in CB snakes, does not exist
No, Kelly.
I'm sure it occurs sometimes.


I'm just anecdotally repeating an explanation that I read several years ago.
It just made sense as to why selective out-breeding of several generations seemed to eliminate some deleterious effects.

Besides, it MUST be true. I read it on the internet! :) ;)

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Kelly Mc
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Re: New corn snake and a debate...

Post by Kelly Mc » November 15th, 2013, 4:44 pm

Some of my dearest friends, across phyla have been albinos. Truth.

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