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RE: Hypo Cal King Question....

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Posted by: zach_whitman at Tue May 22 19:35:53 2007  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by zach_whitman ]  
   

Melanin is a pigment molecule that is the most common form of Black pigment in most animals and people. Cells called melanocytes make this pigment in a somewhat long multistep reaction with several precurser molecules that have different levels of dark coloring. If there is a defect in any of the enzymes responsible for any of the steps in this reaction, the animal will not be able to make melanin and will not be black, or as black.

The most famous of these enzymes is Tyrosinase. You have probobly heard of T versus T- animals. This is an enzyme responsible for converting melanin precuser molecule into a purple pigment. If the genetic defect in the enzymatic chain is after that step, then the animal will have a dark purple color instead of black or dark brown.

So if a snake can't make any melanin or any colored precursers, it is called amelanistic or albino. If it makes some of these colored precursers it is called hypomelanistic. If it makes too much it is called melanistic or hypermelanistic.

Now for how all of this applys to kingsnakes...

I don't know.

I know what you mean about some dark snakes being called hypo and other "Normal" coastals look very light, especially as they age. Technically I guess you could argue that all coastal phase cal kings are hypomelanistic, as they are lighter and obviously have less melanin, or maybe even a different brown pigment entirely. I guess the desert phase would be considered "normal", and the davis/mendota/baja kings would be hypermelanisitc.

Because coastal phase kings are nearly black when they are born I suspect that they can fully produce melanin. If I had to guess I would say that they have fewer concentrations of melanocytes in their skin, and so appear brown.

The bottom line is that hypos will be different from birth. And just about all kings of any morph or type will lighten as they age.

The large coastal male in the pic appears to be lighter then the yearling hypo. However he is 15 yrs old. If you compare the yearling hypo to a yearling coastal (whose father is the male below) you can see the huge difference. Also, light regular cal kings will always be some shade of brown or tan. Most hypos have a purplish hue.






   

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