Here at the Reptile Zoo we have a special place in our hearts for showcasing some of our particularly exceptional snake morphs. But what really IS a morph?
Morphs are simply different color variations among the same species of animal. While we select for specific morphs in captivity, Mother Nature makes morphs of her own! Take for example the peppered moth, which comes in a light and a dark morph.
The two most common morphs that Mother Nature produces might be familiar to you. Albinism, or amelanism, is caused by a genetic mutation that causes the cells of the body to be unable to produce the pigment Melanin, which is dark brown in color. This explains why animals with typically brown fur turn white when albino. There is another mutation, called Melanism, which is caused by the overproduction of melanin, which causes a heavily pigmented, much darker animal. A good example of natural melanism is the black panther. Black panthers are actually jaguars with Melanism, not their own separate species. Their fur overproduces pigment, causing them to appear almost entirely black. This mutation worked to their advantage for hunting at night, as the dark colors help them blend in. Here we have examples of Albinism and Melanism in ball pythons with a normal for comparison:
These two mutations are popular genes to reproduce in snakes, as they are the building blocks for many of the designer genes we see today. It’s hard to believe that a rare mutation found in just one or two snakes 20 years ago led to the hundreds of morphs available today. At this point even though no melanistic reticulated pythons have ever been found, there have been morphs created to make incredibly dark snakes. Just check out the awesome variety below!