Along Came a Spider

spider-fire-297x300-4876570When I first jumped back into the ball python world, I was afraid of Spiders. Not the eight legged creepy crawly ones, but the super sweet, reduced pattern ball python morph. As I was sitting there with my one female Albino and looking for more balls to add to my collection, I read horror story after horror story concerning the Spider. Initially, this swayed me away from the morph, but today we will discuss why I love Spiders and why you should as well.

Let us begin this talk with why on earth I was scared of a pretty little Spider. First and foremost was the dreaded “wobble”. Not all mutations are purely cosmetic. Sometimes the genetics required to change the paint job may have effects on other body systems. There are a handful of examples of this in the ball python word, such as breeding problems with Desert morph females, kinking in Super Cinnamons/Black Pastels or even lethal combinations such as the Super Champagne, Spider Champagne or the Pearl (Super Hidden Gene Woma). Along these lines also falls the infamous Spider Wobble.

It needs to be remembered that may of our morphs come from a very small number of wild-caught base morphs, and in some cases a single animal. In the case of Spider, it seems that the original specimen had a wobble and that has been passed on to subsequent generations. Now, you may ask, “What the heck is Spider wobble?” The wobble is a neurological condition that has various levels of manifestation. Generally, it will be a mild swaying or shaking of the head when the snake is excited (feeding time or breeding), all the way up to and including a seizure-like “corkscrewing” that can interfere with the snake’s ability function. They may also display odd movements, such as lying with the head cocked or even upside down. The wobble can show up at any point in the Spider’s lifespan and vary in intensity. The great news is the MOST Spider’s have very mild wobble (unnoticeable on some) and it has ZERO effect on their day to day life. Unfortunately, if you pull up YouTube videos on the matter you only see the worst of the wobbles and it makes it seem like the numbers of horrible wobblers are much higher than reality. Now, can we breed out the wobble, or prevent it (there have been many attempts)? So far that answer seems to be: no. Some argue that ALL Spiders wobble, but many to a degree that is almost unnoticeable. Some (including myself) find the quirks to be something that sets the Spider apart. So in the case of the wobble, be aware it exists, but also know that the chances of getting a bad wobble are small. Make sure you communicate with your breeder on the status of the wobble (remember though that it can change over time). Enough on that.

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The next reason I was not initially in to the Spider revolved around the issue of Supers. Quickly, for those new to this, a Super is created when two genes of an incomplete dominant mutation are present, creating a different visual outcome. The prevailing thought for years has been that a Super Spider is a lethal combination. Lately, this seems to not be the case. There has bee no evidence that the rate of lost embryos is anywhere near the expected for a lethal Super when a Spider-to-Spider pairing is done.

Ok, so WHY should we love the Spider? Two words: combo potential. A great looking spider can be a group-shot-300x225-2153078stunning base morph on its own, but when added to other base morphs it can truly turn things up to 11. Remember, that the primary thing the Spider gene does for us is reduce pattern, but in may cases it can also increase the white on the sides of the animal (referred to as “high white”). So, when crossed with another high white morph such as Calico or Sugar, the results can be stunning.

The pattern reduction can be taken a step further when crossed with another pattern reducing morph such as Pinstripe. This leaves an almost gold snake called a Spinner.

Quality Spiders also tend to be more gold-colored than dark brown. This can be turned up a notch with the addition of a “highlighter gene” such as Fire or Yellow Belly.

Fire Spider female

Group shot

At this point, Spider has pretty much been mixed in to everything, but there are still more combos out there to be had. For those of us willing to deal with the minor quirks that the Spider gene can bring, the reward can be simply stunning. Just remember to shop for the snake not for the deal, and look for quality and good reputation in your chosen breeders.

And for the record, I am still afraid of creepy eight-legged spiders…

Dave Jenkins
Royal Hijinx Pythons

Andrew woods
Andrew woods
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