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The Whitewall Fallacy: A Rumor Disproven

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Posted by: dankrull at Fri Jul 10 13:57:42 2015  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by dankrull ]  

In my 18 or so years of keeping reptiles and amphibians I have seen dozens of examples of persistent rumors spread as facts through the community. One that comes to mind is the sinister myth that mealworms are not only not nutritious, but will also "chew their way out of your pet's stomach," both of which are nonsense.

The reason such rumors start and are spread is twofold: One problem is that most people don't approach things using the scientific method, and the other part is the inevitable loud mouths who scream their beliefs loud enough and long enough until everyone is afraid to disagree. The latter being a major issue in the hognose hobby of late.

This post is meant to dispel one of these commonly held rumors, but also to put the idea in your head to be open minded. No one knows everything, and only data, painstakingly collected and interpreted, can answer the more puzzling questions we come across. Be skeptical. Ask questions. Conduct tests. Try to prove yourself wrong, and we will all be better off.

That being said, on to my test cross....

Two years ago I obtained a hatchling which was the result of crossing a conda het toffee to a conda het toffee. Looking at his dorsum, you could clearly see that he was a conda. He had the characteristics of rounded and reduced blotches, and reduced blotch count. I named him Wonderbread because of his bright colors and circular blotches.

Wonderbread as a hatchling:

Normal clutchmate:

The only issue was, he lacked any sign of being a conda on his belly. His belly was not black, and he had no whitewalls. I posted pictures of him on this forum and several others to see what others thought, and the unanimous response was: No white walls, not a conda.

Still, my curiosity persisted, and I decided to keep him and see how he looked as he grew up. His color got lighter as he grew, as condas often do, he had a pinkish white hue to his lower lateral scales, as condas do... Everything about this snake said conda from the top...

Wonderbread as an adult:

Wonderbread's adult belly:

So, I decided to hold him back to do a test cross. My argument, which I foolishly made in the presence of people like Troy Rexroth who attacked and insulted me for even suggesting it, was that the only thing that truly defines a conda is its ability to produce supers.

A conda is simply a het patternless which shows markers, often obvious ones, which indicate it is a het. This is a result of the patternless allele being incompletely dominant in relation to the wild type allele. I hypothesized that it would be possible to produce a nearly normal looking snake that was still het patternless, or "conda" and I proposed to test it by breeding Wonderbread to a normal conda female. If I produced supers, he would be, by definition, a conda or het patternless, despite his lack of white walls.

This spring, I bred Bread to a normal conda. She is a 4 year old breeder female who has never been bred to a conda. The las two seasons she has been bred to an albino male, so there was no chance of sperm retention producing a super.

I paired them three times, and each time got a visually confirmed lock. No other males were introduced to this female.

Female swollen with eggs in her nest box:

She laid 12 good eggs in the first clutch, and 17 in the second.
The first clutch began hatching on July 8th on day 54. Incubated between 78 and 82 degrees F.

The results can be seen in this photo:

So far, there are two confirmed patternless or "supers", but several eggs have not emerged.

Conclusion: Characteristics like black bellies, white walls, reduced blotch count, and reduced pattern are all characteristic of het patternless, or "anaconda" hognose, but none of them are required to be present in order to define the snake as such. The only true way to prove that a snake is het patternless is if it produces patternless animals when bred to another het patternless, or a patternless.

Now, I don't mean to say that the white wall is meaningless. Truly, it is very meaningful. All but one of the condas that I have bred or worked with have had well defined white walls, and their presence is strong evidence (the strongest, even) that a snake is in fact het for patternless. What I'm saying is, if the snake lacks white walls, and is showing other markers, such as reduced blotch count, reduced pattern, etc., it may still be a conda. Wonderbread is living proof.

I hope you found this little write up interesting and educational.



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>> Next Message:  RE: Deceitful Implications - Rextiles, Fri Jul 10 18:29:31 2015
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>> Next Message:  A real scientific inquiry! - Rextiles, Sat Jul 18 00:04:40 2015