What Should a Breeder Know about Ball Python Genetics?

Erin J. Hill

It is important for any serious breeder to have some understanding of ball python genetics, primarily how to breed the snakes in order to get the desired color or type of offspring. There are various morphs within the ball python species. These generally come as the result of careful breeding so that genetic defects related to these morphs will remain dominant. Through carefully breeding pythons with a healthy bloodline and special characteristics, breeders can increase their profits dramatically.

There are many morphs within the ball python species.
There are many morphs within the ball python species.

A morph is a snake which has a certain genetic defect that causes it to have color patterns and other characteristics not typical of the breed. Quickly learning which defects are recessive and which are dominant will be helpful when studying ball python genetics if one wants to breed the rarer, and more valuable, morph pythons. A recessive defect is one which must come from both parents in order to present itself in the offspring. Dominant or co-dominant genes only have to be present in one parent. Even when bred correctly, some morph varieties are hit or miss.

All pythons are generally easy to maintain and are not venomous.
All pythons are generally easy to maintain and are not venomous.

Albino snakes are of the recessive variety. If only one parent snake has the recessive genetic defect which generally causes the physical characteristics of being an albino, the offspring will typically have a normal appearance. Both parents parents must have the defective gene in order to create albino offspring, although both parents do not necessarily have to be albinos themselves. Two carriers of the gene may create an albino youth.

Dominant genes, such as in pinstripe ball pythons, only require one gene to be present in order for offspring to look different. However, the exact look a snake will have depends on additional factors which play a role in ball python genetics. If the gene is present in both parents, one particular appearance may occur in their young. If only one is present, an entirely different appearance may occur. This leads to multiple types of morphs which can take place.

Additionally, there are various sub categories which breeders must be mindful of when studying ball python genetics. There are different types of albinos with some displaying different color patterns and marking than others. If one type of albino is paired with another, this could lead to various potential outcomes in offspring.

There is no way to definitively determine how young will end up when breeding, but a basic understanding of python genetics can increase the chances of getting the characteristics one desires. It also allows new breeders to ask questions when purchasing their first snakes. Many breeders are happy to answer questions about python genetics, lineage in their snakes, and proper breeding techniques.

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