Breeding out the Beauty
Corn Snakes, Pantherophis guttatus, formerly Elaphe guttatus gutattus are the most produced snake in captivity. The ease of care, large clutches and one of the first snakes producing color and pattern mutations are just some of the reasons why. The first amelanistic (also called albino) corn snake was caught by Dr. Benard Betchel in North Carolina in 1953 but wasn’t reproduced in captivity until 1961. Since that time it’s become a staple at every reptile show throughout the United States and most likely the world. In the early years of herpetoculture, these were highly attractive snakes to own, due to not understanding genetics of reptiles, in particular snakes.
When did we stop admiring the natural beauty of snakes?
As far as I can remember, Corn Snakes have come in many different colors and patterns, from the original amelanistic to the newest palmetto morph. What about those wild type Corn Snakes from Miami showing a very distinct grayish ground color or the bright orange, thick black bordered snakes from the Okeetee Hunt Club? These natural differences have been lost in herpetoculture and have become undesirable over the years in their natural forms. Now, any captive bred corn snake available at pet shops, reptile shows or from private breeders can and most likely will have some kind of genetic mutation hidden in them. Even corn snakes that have a natural phenotype can carry multiple mutations. As the genetic lineages are lost through sales and the disregard to record keeping, most new breeders are left scratching their heads when an oddball snake hatches from their first clutch.
The Shift in Colubrids
Since I started keeping captive bred colubrids in the late 80s, genetic mutations are what I and many others bred for. Colubrid breeders today still breed for many different traits or mutations, in the most recent years, there’s been a following of breeders breeding for distinct locality and natural phenotypes. Each different locality of Corn snakes can have subtle difference. Some of the localities that are being bred are Miami’s, Alabama, South Carolina (Okeetee Hunt Club) and any county or city that shows a distinct pattern or color shift. Even these localities will change over time, as breeder’s line breed to enhance that specific look.
What the Future Holds
Looking into the future of Corn snakes in captivity one thing will never change; it will stay a staple in herpetoculture due to the ease of care, their moderate size, and ease of breeding. The many different colors and patterns whether natural or because of a mutant genes will always keep hobbyists involved in reproducing these wonderful creatures. If you have the chance to view these incredible creatures in the wild it will give you a new appreciation for species that helped build herpetoculture we see today.