07/04/11:THE STORY OF WHY "POSSIBLE HETS" WILL NEVER BE LOOKED AT THE SAME AGAIN

GRAND SLAM HOME RUN PART 3.

Along the way it was established that the Lavender Albino and the traditional Albino were two distinct recessive genotypes as well as phenotypes. When bred together these two distinct albinos would make normal babies.

Nearly 10 years ago a young couple contacted us who expressed interest first in getting a pair of 100% het albinos as well as a male DH for VPI snow male. Ryan and Annette Young purchased some animals and at some point travelled across the county from Idaho to visit Annette’s parents who happen to live in Texas. They made the long trek and visited us here at VPI where we talked snakes and our other major hobby--fishing!

Ryan is an avid as well as accomplished fisherman and this would be the first of several trips he made to Texas that ended up with Dave and Ryan fishing and me holding down the fort with the snakes.

Over the years we talked about our various Ball python projects from opposite sides of the country. Ryan was always very inquisitive and wanted to know every detail about every project. He had a particular interest that was reminiscent of that show “Behind the Music”! He wanted to know every detail of “Behind the Snake”! The main thing it seemed I wanted to explain to Ryan, this young person, was in essence what I have been detailing in this note. That it has taken two decades of work to get to where we are today. Things that we only dreamed of are today available in what seems like mindboggling ease for young herpetoculturists today. The animals are all captive bred and hatched, and, without question, breed with ease compared to the initial projects working with animals that were imported from Africa.

In our quest to accomplish breeding projects proving new mutations in Ball pythons, we had an extensive collection of snakes. There are private collections today that have way more animals than we had, but our collection did increase in size as we produced generations of gene carriers for multiple projects. Where we did not have or had limited numbers of homozygous animals, we did a lot of breeding of heterozygous animals to each other. I have said many times if I “had to do one thing all over again,” I would get a single heterozygous male of every recessive mutation and make a lot of possible hets and prove them out one by one. This at the time would have been the least expensive way to get into all of the projects—today I still hold to that notion.

To say I am a huge believer with working with possible hets and proving them out is an understatement. As I have said to Ryan many times: 1) “I am not lazy!” 2) the thought that once you prove a possible het out you have done all the work, just works for me! Now you know what you have and it is a huge bonus!The poss het thing reinforced itself when I was very lucky with a Boa project I was working on and hit on a possible het VPI Caramel Albino Boa that produced 8 VPI Caramel Albinos! That hit me over the head like a ton of bricks. The thought that I would have just sold that female and she indeed was a 100% het, just made me say then and there I have no problem doing the work and proving out our possible hets. The worst I would end up with was a fabulous female normal snake.

With that mindset I had quite a few discussions (many with Ryan) about the keeping or not keeping of poss hets that were the results of het x het crosses. Of course he was limited in space and practically it just wasn’t something that he easily could do or had much desire to do. He exemplified the person who wanted to “look at” what he was making, which meant visions of homozygous animals in his racks!

As time went by Ryan saw Dave and I get really busy with various writing projects, Boa projects, and Blood python projects. During this time Ryan really started to have a goal to work with all of the variations of albino Ball pythons. But they were expensive and there in came my suggestion to get into the projects via the het route, and in the case of the really expensive morphs the possible het route.It was then that I floated the idea to Ryan that I could send a small group of possible het lavender and VPI Axanthic animals for him to continue raising and work on the Lavender snow project. Years of caring and feeding normal looking snakes in the hopes that someday, maybe, he could see a lavender albino! This wasn’t like raising 100% hets, this was raising poss het this and poss het that, that at some point hopefully by some sort of miracle actually made something!

In 2006, I shipped Ryan a group of year old poss het lavenders that were also poss het VPI axanthics, that I had made from breeding a Double het Lavender Snow male to a 100% het VPI Axanthic female. You can bet there were plenty of conversations where Ryan asked me the question “now why am I doing this?!” There is no doubt in my mind that the pure joy I got from telling him just to get to work and take care of those snakes, overrode any doubts I had about whether I was doing the right thing or that he would actually get the job done!

For four years we talked about snakes and Ryan and Annette came on several trips to Texas. Dave, Ryan, and Ryan’s friend Steve Perry had some great fishing trips where all three guys caught some nice fish and no doubt made up some good fish stories when they made it back home to tell me the tale.

In 2010 after countless conversations over the previous 4 years I delivered on my promise to send Ryan a suitable male which hopefully at least would help him prove out some of those females. I sent two males, one a male Lavender Albino that was 50% het for VPI Axanthic and the other a double het for Lavender snow male. Now that Ryan had a Lavender Albino male to look at he could start to visualize what this project was all about!

Breeding season 2011, the goal was to 1) see if we could prove out the Lavender Albino male as also being het for VPI Axanthic and 2) see what the possible het females were exactly. The males were ready, and the females were definitely ready as they were 5 years old, never bred before, so they had the age and the size to be perfect for breeding. The males were 18 months old, so they also were ready to go.Fortunately Ryan’s breeding season came early and by April I got the phone call that we had “eggs on the ground!” In short order there were 3 clutches, the first and 2nd from the Lavender Albino male and the 3rd from the Double Het male.

The next 60 days of waiting for the first clutch to hatch were filled with talks reminding Ryan that even in the worst case scenario he would be hatching 100% het Lavenders from the male Lavender and 50% poss het Lavenders and 50% poss het VPI axanthics from the Double het snow male.

 

Clutch number one: The first clutch hatched and the phone call came. All normal snakes. Wow that hurt, but remember what we talked about, a nice clutch of 100% het Lavenders, 6 beautiful babies! Get back in the ring that was only round one! The wait for the next clutch would not be easy. Two weeks of Ryan wondering why I had convinced him to work with these possible hets! Those two weeks were spent reminding him that there were many years that went into just the ability for him to even work with those possible hets. I reminded him that last year after at least 5 years of waiting for babies from one of my favorite Blood pythons, The t neg Orange Albino, where I had multiple clutches from het to het, the first clutch of 12 eggs hatched and there were all normal babies!  But when the second and third clutches hatched there were my prized albinos!

 

“Hang on” I said, “suck it up, and get back to work!” Remember the snake business often exemplifies the famous ABC Wide World of Sports intro line: “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”! But in the scheme of things we are the luckiest people in the world to be able to do what we do! The two weeks went by and it was finally hatching day.

 

Clutch number two: The second clutch hatched and the phone call came. One Lavender Albino! One VPI Axanthic! A Lavender Snow!!!! Ryan was stunned! I was stunned! Two major questions answered and we were in a whole new Ball game! 1) The Lavender male we now knew was 100% het for VPI Axanthic-meaning he was a true “Het Lavender Snow” and 2) the female he had bred was proven to be a Double het Lavender Snow! Our heads were spinning, what we also just realized was that the VPI Axanthic in the clutch was also a 100% het Lavender Albino, so we now also had one more true “Het Lavender Snow”! And then there was the Lavender Snow baby, a male!

 

Are you kidding me? It was almost impossible to believe. With this single clutch this project went from a bunch of possible het normal females to a huge group of animals with our dream genotypes!

 

I would say I have hatched a few clutches in my day. Dave and I are very proud that we proved out many new mutations over the past two decades and without question our luck has been amazing. And there is a lot of luck involved. After all of the work, after all of the myriad of events that go on, classic Mendelian  genetics and ratios aside, luck plays a hand. Not in the success of getting the job done, but in the actual odds game. We have seen it go both ways. An extreme example of this would be having two clutches of 10 eggs each from an albino to a 100% het albino yielding 9 normal snakes and one albino to the same size clutch yielding 9 albinos and one normal. In a whole new frame of mind with what was possible there was only 24 hours to wait until the next clutch hatched!

 

Clutch number three: Still reeling from the last clutch, nothing in my 20 years of hatching snake eggs could prepare me for what was to come. Picking up my cell phone I could see it was Ryan giving me the update on the first Double het x Double het clutch. He told me there were 5 Lavender albinos in the clutch!

 

Wow that was a big hit. We hung up the phone. The phone rang again. Ryan explained how it looked like there might be a Lavender snow amongst the Albinos. OK, well that’s pretty amazing, we have just doubled the number of Lavender snows in existence in a week! We acknowledged that we now knew we had a second adult Double het female and the Lavenders in the clutch were 66% possible het for VPI Axanthic. We hung up. The phone rang again. I thought I just heard Ryan say, that he thought that of the 5 Lavender Albinos, it looked like 3, that is THREE, were Lavender Snows.  

 

That is 3 Lavender snows! That is from a Double het x 66% het Axanthic and 50% het Possible Lavender het breeding, 3 snakes that the odds are 1/16 for each egg in a single clutch. I personally am not aware of that ever being reported.

 

Needless to say I think Ryan has learned a lesson regarding the value of normal looking snakes that just may carry the genes of a snake you would like to have in your collection, in fact I know he has taken up the cause.

 

Get that kid a ticket to Vegas!

 

Congratulations Ryan!

 

Possible hets anyone? If you call Ryan, I’m not sure if he will want to sell any!

PHOTOS IN NEXT ENTRY! HANG ON!