THREE MORPH SPIN

The Kingspin Ball Python Morph

Animal Scene - - REPTILE SPOTLIGHT - Text by CLIFF SAWIT Pho­tos by JEF­FREY C. LIM

ORI­GINS

The ball python or python regius, very pop­u­lar with her­peto­cul­tur­ists of all ex­pe­ri­ence lev­els¸ be­gan with a sin­gle wild type, the so-called “Nor­mal.” How­ever, thanks to the ef­forts of breed­ers ev­ery­where, ball pythons are now avail­able in well over 100 color and pat­tern com­bi­na­tions, called “morphs,” with de­scrip­tive names like ax­an­thic, tiger, spi­der, lesser plat­inum, pin­striped, and so on.

For a par­tic­u­lar com­bi­na­tion to be con­sid­ered a morph, says our res­i­dent rep­tile ex­pert Pit­lair, it must look dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent from the Nor­mal type. That dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tion must be ca­pa­ble of be­ing passed from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion, and is oth­er­wise known as an in­her­i­ta­ble trait.

Out of this dizzy­ing ar­ray of ge­netic com­bi­na­tions comes the Kingspin morph. Known as a “three-gene snake,” the Kingspin comes from the com­bi­na­tion of the Spi­der morph, a ba­sic dom­i­nant morph which was first in­tro­duced in 1999 and is best known for its web-like pat­tern of mark­ings, and the King­pin (not to be con­fused with the Kingspin) morph. The King­pin morph, in turn, is a com­bi­na­tion of the Pin­stripe and Lesser morphs, with the for­mer con­tribut­ing its sig­na­ture pin­stripe mark­ings, and the lat­ter adding its light color and blush­ing.

STONE COLD STUN­NER

The Kingspin ball python it­self is a strik­ing an­i­mal, usu­ally pale with thin spi­der web dor­sal stripes. Pit­lair says, “Some hob­by­ists or col­lec­tors keep them be­cause of how they look. Others keep them to breed with other morphs to hope­fully cre­ate some­thing even more unique and beau­ti­ful.”

So what’s the spin on the name? “The first per­son to com­bine the lesser morph and the pin­stripe morph names his new morph ‘king­pin’, and the first per­son to com­bine the spi­der morph with the pin­stripe morph named his com­bi­na­tion ‘spin­ner’,” Pit­lair ex­plains. “This is where we get the name ‘kingspin’.”

KINGSPIN FACTS

Kingspin ball pythons, like other ball pythons, can live from 15 to 20 years in cap­tiv­ity as long as they’re prop­erly cared for. Some even live 30 years or more. The record age for a ball python is more than 40 years!

Ball pythons are among the small­est of all pythons. Hatch­lings are about 10 inches in length. Male ball pythons are typ­i­cally smaller than fe­males, with the for­mer reach­ing 2-3 feet in adult­hood, while fe­males grow up to 3-5 feet long.

First found in Africa, ball pythons tend to stay in wooded ar­eas, grass­lands, and the sa­van­nah. They move around from place to place in search for food, stay­ing mostly on the ground but also climb­ing up trees or even en­ter­ing the wa­ter from time to time. They’ve since spread all over the world thanks to the pet trade that has grown up around these pop­u­lar snakes.

CARE FOR A (KING) SPIN?

Cap­tive-born and bred ball pythons are eas­ier to care for than wild pythons, are less finicky eaters, and have a higher tol­er­ance for be­ing han­dled. They are also usu­ally par­a­site-free and well­started.

“Ball pythons are some of the most docile pythons,” says Pit­lair, “and gen­er­ally they don’t bite, and might sim­ply curl it­self up tightly into a ball when fright­ened or when it sim­ply doesn’t want to be held. Some may be flighty at first when be­ing picked up, but with reg­u­lar han­dling, many pythons sim­ply get used to be­ing held.”

So what does Pit­lair feed his kingspin? “Just ro­dents,” he says. “I pre­fer to feed it fresh, pre-killed prey, but only be­cause I don’t keep frozen ones. Ideally it’s best to of­fer dead prey if your snake will take them, be­cause this pre­vents the ro­dents from bit­ing the snake back.”

But what about in­sects? “This is the first time I’ve heard of this,” he replies in­cred­u­lously. “I would never try feed­ing in­sects to my ball python!”

TROP­I­CAL HUT: HOUS­ING YOUR KINGSPIN

Be­cause the Philip­pines is a trop­i­cal coun­try, it is very easy to keep ball pythons like the Kingspin. Pit­lair ex­plains, “Un­less you live in a high al­ti­tude place like Baguio where it’s colder and drier, ball pythons should be able to tol­er­ate the changes in weather and tem­per­a­ture. Just take ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures in case of ex­treme tem­per­a­ture spikes or drops.”

Kingspins, like all ball pythons, are rel­a­tively clean an­i­mals and can live in most sub­strates or bed­dings. “I per­son­ally use un­printed news­pa­per pa­per,” says Pit­lair. He cau­tions against us­ing cedar shav­ings as bedding for ball pythons, how­ever, as the volatile oils from the cedar wood can cause skin, res­pi­ra­tory, and re­pro­duc­tive sys­tem can cause dam­age to your snake.

“I house my ball pythons in un­der­bed plas­tic tubs, mostly be­cause I keep so many. It’s more prac­ti­cal to keep them in, since ball pythons mostly need suf­fi­cient floor space. Be­cause they are ground an­i­mals, giv­ing them a taller en­clo­sure pro­vides lit­tle added ben­e­fits. I house mine in a 17” x 32” x 6” plas­tic con­tainer; some­thing a lit­tle smaller or big­ger is fine too.”

HAN­DLE WITH CARE

Although kingspins, like all ball pythons, are among the most docile snakes you can keep, there is al­ways a pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing bit­ten. “It’s no dif­fer­ent from be­ing bit­ten by a dog or cat,” says Pit­lair. “It’s un­likely, but there’s al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity. It’s never a good idea to dis­turb an eat­ing dog, and it’s not a good idea to pick up your snake without wash­ing your hands af­ter han­dling a mouse. With the scent of mouse lin­ger­ing on your hands, the snake would sim­ply be re­spond­ing to its in­nate in­stinct to feed, think­ing your hand is a mouse.”

He rec­om­mends al­ways wash­ing your hands af­ter han­dling your snake’s food, and pick­ing your snake up from be­hind. “Don’t han­dle right af­ter feed­ing,” he warns. “The feed­ing mode in them is still very high at that point.”

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