What Is a Super Ball Python?

Dan Harkins

The super ball python is one of the latest designer species in a long line of hybrid ball pythons, each with its own characteristic look and behavior. These snakes are a mix between a ball python and either a blood or Marble Borneo short-tail python, exhibiting a green, black and tan patterning that is a blend of the two species. Reportedly created in 2002 by herpetologists at New York-based Roussis Reptiles, the first official super ball python spawn allegedly hatched in 2005.

Pythons are not venomous, generally large, and can be found in Africa, Asia and Australia.
Pythons are not venomous, generally large, and can be found in Africa, Asia and Australia.

Roussis Reptiles' first super ball python was created by ball python and Borneo short-tail python parents. It took three years to produce a clutch of babies. This points to the genetic difficulties inherent in cross-breeding designer snakes for commercial purposes.

Like other more-established python breeds, this new line of snakes could prove to be an improvement on its parents. According to Roussis Reptiles Web site, the hybrid super ball python eats better than ball pythons, does not require stringent humidity controls like blood pythons, and grows faster than either of its parents. It is also capable of creating a new super ball spawn with either parent's breed as well as with other super ball cousins. It can start mating productively as early as 18 months old.

The company that created the super ball python urges care when trying to create the new species at home. Herpetology associations commonly recommend that microchips be implanted in hybrid species, identifying where they were created and by what kind of parents. This tinkering with genetic traits can lead to species degradation in the wild if captive species are released — purposely or accidentally.

It is far from the first time that the ball python, a common reptile pet, has created a new hybrid species. This happens in nature from time to time, but not in such vast and concentrated numbers. The list of hybrid varieties is long, with as many as 56 recognized ball python hybrids and nearly as many waiting for official recognition from established herpetology organizations.

These snakes vary widely in appearance. A piebald ball python, for instance, has patches of pale-white, unpatterned skin that abruptly alternates with the iconic camoflaged patterning of the ball python in other parts of the body. Others have altered coloring or patterning, like the pinstripe, blonde-pastel, Harlequin wide-stripe, calico, yellow-bellied, spider, bumble bee, Mojave, lesser platinum, killer bee and pewter variations. Some are completely white or yellow, with or without any protective patterning.

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