05/17/07

            Welcome to the VPI Diary. We intend to report on what it's like in the "snake business." We'll share with you some of the things that happen here at VPI, the good things and the disappointments, too. We'll try to add new reading here often.

            Our web site is now based on freeware called Drupal. Setting up the site is beyond our fledgling programming abilities-we rely on the good people at Digett, a nationally known web site design company that, incredible as it sounds, we found here in our little Texas town of Boerne. Drupal is complicated to set up, but it makes adding text and images to a website much simpler that it was for us before. Then we relied on Microsoft FrontPage to create our website, a good program and one that we were comfortable with, but far more time-consuming than Drupal.

            We still have the time constraints placed on us by our large collection of snakes, writing projects, and raising two children, but we hope to have time to contribute to this--our first blog. Of course, getting started has been a challenge. The site was set up and the skeleton has been sitting, waiting for us to make our first entry and start to flesh it out. We kept waiting for some astounding event to report on as the first entry in the VPI Diary.

            Then we came to our senses and realized that "astounding events" come rarely in the snake business. Blogs, we are told, are more about everyday events. So we are going to try to learn to be good bloggers, and just report on daily stuff.

            Still, there is one fairly notable thing that happened today, and I have to confess that it really is theTwin Ball PythonsTwin Ball Pythons nudge that started our blog ball rolling. Today we had two ball pythons hatch that are identical twins.

            We have had other identical twins born in the past. Notably, we had a lineage of VPI jungle carpets that we used to breed here that regularly had twins. There were twins in other python species we have hatched, too. We have always taken an interest in twins, because there are two types of twins possible in humans and in snakes, identical twins and fraternal twins, and we have been curious to identify which kind our snakes are.

            In their 1990 book, The Reproductive Husbandry of Pythons and Boas, authors Ross and Marzec claim that twins in pythons are always fraternal twins. They explain that twins happened when two separate ova are shelled together to create a single large eggs; the resulting two snakes are each connected to a separate yolk. These are fraternal twins. They go on to say that identical twins are unknown in pythons and likely never happen.

            Well, we've seen a number of twin pythons that hatched here at VPI since 1990, and all have been identical twins. We have yet to see a single case of fraternal twins. We have even seen twin ball pythons before-identical twins every time. Identical Twins, Connected to One YolkIdentical Twins, Connected to One Yolk

            We do know that fraternal twins exist. We know two ball python breeders who each has hatched twins and one twin was one morph and the another twin was a different morph. The only explanation for that is that the twins are fraternal-two ova in one shell. But identical twins do exist. We even have hatched triplet blood pythons.

            So what made today's hatching significant? Today Tracy got a fantastic picture of just how identical twins are connected to a single yolk. We've seen it before, but we have never been able to so clearly photograph how two babies are attached to one yolk. The image is really pretty remarkable.

 VPI Caramel-Albino NeonatesVPI Caramel-Albino Neonates           As for other news, we had a litter of boas recently born that we are very proud of and excited about. These are no average boas. This was a standout litter of VPI caramel-albino boas. The cool thing is that the parents are some of the very prettiest boas we have. They also were born here. The female is small and had a small litter, but all the babies are big and well-formed, and many are especially pretty snakes with the promise to become trophy snakes some day. Some of these babies are also pink panthers, the morph that adds fabulous oranges and pinks to the skin.

            Tonight we attended son Guy's Exhibit Fair. There were posters, models, recreations, and power-Guy's Science ExhibitGuy's Science Exhibitpoint presentations on just about every imaginable topic that elementary school kids might have an interest. Guy put together an exhibit titled "How Food Chains Work." His exhibit had a box full of sod with a variety of grasses growing to represent the "producers" in the food chain A second box full of a variety of insects represented the plant eaters (primary consumers.) The box on top contained our very tolerant leopard gecko to present the predators (secondary consumers) that eat the plant-eaters.

            Finally, at the science fair was an exhibit about snakes that was created by a first grader who totally loves snakes. He's read lots of books, loves to talk about snakes, and he made some In the Opinion of a First-Grader...: Young Matthew at the Exhibit Fair thought this little bit of wisdom was worth passing on...In the Opinion of a First-Grader...: Young Matthew at the Exhibit Fair thought this little bit of wisdom was worth passing on...excellent models of snakes. Here is a picture of one of his factoids, which we thought was very precocious (and insightful) to have come from a seven-year-old boy. I asked him where he got his information and he assured me that some of his friends with snakes told him that this was true.

            That's it for tonight. Now to see if I can figure out how to get this mounted and online.

-Dave-