Cornsnakes (Panterophis guttatus) are probably the most commonly kept snakes in captivity. They are easy to keep and breed, and generally very docile pets. These snakes express a high level of intraspecific diversity (basically the difference in looks between individuals of the same species). This is true for the specimens found in their natural range – roughly following the south-eastern coast of the United States – which can vary greatly in coloration, pattern and even in their build. However, the extremes in the way these snakes can look is perhaps even more obvious in captivity, where breeders have over the past decades collected animals that were somehow different from the wildtype, in terms of coloration or pattern (a common example would be albinism, where animals lack any black pigment). Some of these differences turn out to be genetically regulated by individual genes, often following simple Mendelian inheritance. By now, dozens of pattern- and color-associated genes have been found in cornsnakes, which allows for a great mix and match.
Combining various genes can create the most wonderful-looking snakes, and is also a lot of fun. Latest estimates run close to a thousand different possible combinations, and as you can imagine, I am not really able to, or interested in keeping or breeding that number of snakes, or anywhere close to it. Instead, I have focused on a couple of projects that involve genes that I find particularly interesting. Below, I will describe the different project groups I have here, and what I hope to get out of them by the time they reach breeding size.