by Glen Fankhauser, M.S., and Kenneth B. Cumming, Ph.D.

Abstract

Snakes have rarely been examined as examples of intrabaraminic variation due to the relative obscurity of knowledge regarding the subject of these secretive animals as well as the relative newness of the breeding of snakes. North American species of snakes of the genera Lampropeltis, Pituophis, and Elaphe, while classified in separate genera may actually be more closely related than evolutionary biology predicts.

This study examined intergeneric and interspecific hybridization of several species of colubrid snakes through the use of both natural breeding methods and scent disguise to fool the different species to interbreed. Eleven different species of three different genera were used in this experiment. Results of the crosses were as expected to resemble midpoints of color and pattern between the parental species. Banding patterns appeared to be dominant over blotches and stripes. The most interesting finding was that the amelanistic varieties of the California kingsnake, L.g.californiae, and the corn snake, E.g.guttata are apparently allelic forms of amelanism regardless of the fact that these snakes are members of different genera. When the two genera were crossed this albinism appeared in the F1 generation. All types of the hybrids produced were viable and fertile. As such, they are most likely examples of intrabaraminic diversity of created “kinds” rather than evolutionary speciation. This paper adds viability, homologous genes, and pigment variations to the list of character space criteria for recognizing baramins.

Introduction

The practice of hybridization has long been used by man to maximize our utilization of various plant and animal species. While most types of hybridization that take place today are with types of plants, there continue to be an increasing number of animal hybridizations occurring. Hybrid cattle, sheep, and swine are produced primarily for use in the food and textile industries. However, as our lifestyles have changed to generally provide us with more disposable income, other types of animal hybrids have been produced with the primary goal being to create new and unusual pets. Such is the case with the various wolf dog hybrids, exotic/domestic cat hybrids, and as this paper will examine snake hybrids.  The captive production of snakes is essentially in its infancy, only being performed with any degree of success or regularity since the mid-1970s. During this time, breeding of snakes was rarely accomplished because of the hit-and-miss methodology involved in artificially manipulating the laboratory environment in which to encourage the animals to breed; the knowledge had not yet been perfected. This previous fact, coupled with the relative scarcity of healthy breeding stock of any given species (breeders often having only one example of a species in their collections), hybridizations were performed, primarily to couple unpaired individuals….

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