Over the past few decades, reptile breeders have produced large numbers of “morphs” – animals with defects in pigmentation or patterning (or sometimes both). Whilst these morphs are interesting in and of themselves, to a biologist they actually represent something much more important: mutants. The study of mutants has a long history in biology as they can be used to tell us how certain processes take place, by demonstrating what happens when these processes go wrong. Over the past few years we’ve been working to identify genes involved in pigmentation patterning in several reptile species, including Corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus), Royal python (Python regius) and Leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius). We’ve also recently been working with keepers and breeders in the pet reptile trade to identify the exact DNA-level changes responsible for some desirable genetic traits affecting pigmentation, as well as some less desirable traits such as the neurological defect known as ‘stargazer’.
Help support our research!
We’re currently seeking donations to help us carry out preliminary experiments aimed at identifying the genetic basis of “stargazing” and several other traits in captive corn snakes. If successful this work will be applicable to a variety of other reptile species and will greatly enhance breeding either for or against these traits. We’ll also be able to detect if your snake is a carrier of these traits, meaning you’ll know what to breed together to get the combination you want!
We’re aiming to raise £5,000 in the first instance, which will give us enough money to carry out genotyping-by-sequencing in several families of known genotype (i.e. we already know how many copies of a particular allele they carry) and will be looking to expand this in the future to include additional morphs and species.
Progress so far: