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The Cultivars (morphs)/Genetics Issues Discussions about genetics issues and/or the various cultivars for cornsnakes commercially available.

king snake influence in tessera morph?
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Old 01-13-2013, 12:46 PM   #31
Tesseras; inter-species hybrids or purely corns?

Sadly, there is about to be some sad snake keepers in Europe where Tessera-like Leopard Rat Snake (Elaphe situla) mutants have been found for decades (or perhaps centuries) when American snake keepers tell them that perhaps 1,000 years ago, someone turned a Striped California King snake loose on a Greek Island to hybridize with the native rat snakes. Or perhaps a thousand years ago (or even 25 or 50 years ago) when king snake herpetoculture was all the rage over there, in someone's Frankensnake factory, they crossed the Striped California King with one of their Leopard Rats and then, sprinkled them on European islands for future snake-lovers to discover as Natural rat snake mutants? Either of those scenarios is of course, farcical. I'd be the first to say Tessera corns are other-snakely (oh wait, I WAS the first to say they do genetic things we've never seen in corns), but in the absence of proof, why would any intelligent person say ANYthing like that? What if someone comes forward and says Striped Corns or Bloodred Corns were secretly created by him 30 years ago from crossing a Yellow Rat or a Ribbon Snake? If we say that Tessera Corn mutants look like California kings (and are inherited in the same dominant fashion) they are therefore surely hybrids of the two species, the same must be said about the look-alike mutation in European Leopard Rat Snakes. That they are hybrids of California Kings. OR if the Leopard Rat Snake Tessera was first, California Kings are inter-specific hybrids of Leopard Rat Snakes.

It's humorous that the Tesseras have apparently supplanted Cinders and Sunkissed corns as the latest inter-specific hybrid on the block. I've seen checkered and speckled Sunkissed corns (and I don't mean their bellies), but today, nobody calls them inter-species hybrids. Talk about an evil snake, most Sunkissed mutants will bite your face off, and that's after perhaps 200 respective captive generations of them being bred to pure corns with super friendly demeanors- by hundreds of corn keepers. In spite of all the out-crossing, Sunkissed mutants remain variable in pattern, and unlike the placidly-tempered Tesseras, we seem incapable of eliminating that nasty short temper. If Tessera mutants consistently chewed on our fingers, it would facilitate the theory that they are California King Hybrids. Now, should someone go out and say, "I once had a very mean black rat snake, so since the Sunkissed mutants are so mean, they are surely inter-species hybrids between a mean rat snake I once had, and corns"? A logical person would observe that in the absence of nDNA evidence, the dominant pattern mutation in California Kings is not necessarily from hybrid origins. If such a pattern could only be acquired from an inter-species hybridization, are Striped California Kings really inter-specific hybrids of Ribbon Snakes? No, of course not. We'd say that California Kings owe their mutation to the GARTER SNAKE. Surely a garter snake was used to put that mutation into California Kings? How else could their mutation render a snake that looks like another species? lol. It surely cannot be because many colubrids are distantly related from the rare survivors of an ancient ice age? Surely, the genome of modern North American snake species cannot be carrying mutations inherited from a common ancestor? lol. But if that were so, why are there melanistic, hypomelanistic, amelanistic, and other color and pattern mutations common to virtually ALL North American serpent species? Why are those mutations demonstrated in serpent (and other animal) species around the globe IF they are not inter-species or inter-genera hybrids? What single snake mated with ancient alien species to pass such mutations toward future generations? Was Man involved in such Frankensnaking millennia ago? How sad, evil, and impossible that would be?

Again, I'd be the first to say that Tesseras flunked out of the genetic school for traditional corn mutations, but the same may have been said about the first Striped Corns, or the odd body shape of Cinders or the nasty temperament and variable pattern of Sunkissed mutants? No, wait. The Striped Mutation is demonstrated in dozens (or hundreds) of serpent species. Uh oh? Albinism also occurs in virtually all serpent species (and birds, and mammals, and insects, and fish). Boy-oh-boy has someone's been ambitious (and sadistic)? Has someone been crossing not only species, but genera to add mutations to alien genomes? Orrrrr could it be that a common ancestor of today's serpent genome contained a host of genetic mutations and largely because Man is now UNnaturally breeding all these species in captivity, the UNsuccessful results of genetic mutations that rarely survive in the wild are being routinely demonstrated in all captive serpent species? Is it feasible to say that Albinism in all those species surely is the result of someone crossing all those species to borrow the Albino mutation? Of course not. That's impossible, but it follows the thought process that if a Tessera looks like some California Kings, the Tessera Corn surely is an inter-species of a California King. If Albinism is found in all species and is therefore not considered a borrowed mutation from other species, is it not possible that the Tessera Corn mutation is also not from the intentional crossing of a Corn Snake to a California King Snake? Naturally, they occur thousands of miles, many mountain ranges, and many rivers apart, so the only thing we can safely say is that IF Tessera Corns are the result of inter-species hybridization, it had to be Man-made.

Granted, inter-specific hybridization is common in today's serpent herpetoculture. It's human nature to want a new and different look in otherwise clone-stamped animal species, and to even go to the trouble of artificially creating inter-species hybrids to achieve those goals. Everyone (including me) has the right to suspect inter-specific hybridization in corns. Many times, upon seeing a new corn mutation, have I wondered, "darn, that corn mutant looks like a different species". That's because the dramatic atypicality of mutations is naturally intentional and usually a dramatic departure from normality for a respective species. There is a continuous process occurring in animal species that genetically experiments with different phenotypes that will hopefully benefit respective species. Animals today owe their very appearance to such genetic experiments. Via polygenetic and/or mutational processes, the color, pattern, body conformation, and behavior of a species is ideally suited to it's natural environment, by virtue of that species being extant (antonym of extinct). Over time, if the climate or ecosystem changes, the plants and animals of that realm are faced with three choices; relocate, adapt, or perish. Nature provides plants and animals with the ability to change their appearance and/or behaviors by polygenic interactions and/or from mutations that are hidden in their genomes. Given enough time (perhaps centuries) if such genetic changes are not realized, if the ecosystem does not revert to its original state, many of the species there will become extinct. If an ancient dark-colored lava field is slowly or suddenly covered by a moving white sand desert, all the dark-colored animal species that inhabited the dark lava field are faced with those three natural choices. If a pale version of an otherwise black lizard species on that lava field hatches from an egg (possibly the result of polygenetics or mutation, the heretofore atypically-colored pale lizard is likely to become a common ancestor to its future species' appearance. Via polygenetics or mutations these random and rare atypical progeny happen, just in case something changes in their habitat that no longer benefits survival. A black lizard in a white desert stands no chance of survival, but if a sand-colored hypomelanistic mutant should arise, that species has a chance of avoiding extinction. Should that desert slowly blow away from the lava field, mutations and polygenetics will hopefully allow the species to once again thrive in that new environment. More to the point of this discussion, albino snakes are super-rarely found in the wild because they are seen and consumed by predators - since most cannot practice crypsis with their dramatically atypical colors and/or because their sensitivity to UV radiation caused their demise, they usually don't live long enough to contribute to their race. Mutants like the Tessera-types often survive in their environments because their pattern and coloration still allows crypsis. The black garter snakes of the Great Lakes area are a good example of a mutation that survives naturally. Even with little or no pattern, most black snakes aren't adversely impacted by UV radiation, and because they warm up faster than their counterparts with less melanin, they often flourish within their species. Quantifiable representation of that "morph" within their species qualifies their classification as a polymorphic species. Not unlike California Kings, both (or more) morphs (in this case a mutation that is recessive to wild-type) interbreed within their race.

I can't stop saying that I too have been stumped by the odd genetic behavior (therefore appearance) of Tessera Corn mutants, but even though there seems to be a host of genetic (phenotypic) oddities in the Tesseras, do we instantly get out our torches and pitchforks to slay the evil discoverer of the mutation and burn his evil scientific snake lab to the ground? It's one thing to say, "wow, I've never seen a pure corn like that" or "wow, that Tessera resembles a garter snake, but since inter-generic hybridization is unlikely (garter x corn), surely someone crossed a California King to a corn, since those two species mutations look alike"? No, wait, that doesn't explain the "?Tessera mutatiuon?" being found in a rat snake species found in the wilds of Europe. Darn, we'll have to upturn other stones to find the culprit alien hybrid donor. OR is this truly just a mutation in the genome of the Corn Snake?

At the end of the day, without the expensive DNA baseline inventory needed to solve this riddle, we're all left to speculate on the validity of mutations. Did they originate from today's respective species or did a human introduce the mutation from a different species? Each of us has a tolerance threshold for such things. Some say Sunkissed mutants are purely corn, even though they are highly variable in phenotype. Some say that the odd body shape of the Cinder reminds them of another species (or at least doesn't look natural). The reason I sold all of my Cinders is due to the tear-drop cross-cut body shape of most of them, but is that from a borrowed mutation in another species? Who can say for sure? Me, I don't say that Sunkissed and Cinder mutations are borrowed, but in the case of the latter, I choose not to have them because the shape of the body reminds me of clinically ill snakes (even though the Cinders are perfectly healthy). I'm not slamming Cinder (or Sunkissed) mutations. I'm just saying that I prefer not to keep and promote Cinders because of the shape,
but since I have no idea why or how they look that way, I cannot and will not push the Inter-species Hybrid theory - with NO empirical evidence. I'm not saying that either of those mutations owe their atypical phenotypes to other species. Apparently, the threshold for saying something is just a dramatic genetic mutation vs. an inter-species hybrid is different for each of us. As other-species-looking as Sunkissed mutants are, in the absence of someone stepping forward to say he/she personally made the first ones from crossing another species to a corn, I keep, promote, and love Sunkissed mutants (and their respective aggregates with other mutations). I just wish Sunkissed mutants didn't treat me like California Kings, biting me every time I open their cages. BTW, IF Tessera corns are actually the product of a modern California King, aren't we grateful that pure corns (and humans) are not on their menu?

In conclusion, I was the first to identify the Tessera mutation in corns (followed the year after by KJ and Kasi), but like most snakes we keep and breed, all we really know about them is what we were told. I say I was the first to identify, since adult Tesseras of several colors were discovered by someone else who didn't know how his were inherited. In other words, Tessera corns existed outside this line. Perhaps those people started them and the person who sold the reverse trio to Graham was one of their customers? Do I have any knowledge or proof that they are pure corns? NO. The seller of the three "Tessera corns" received by KJ for Graham Criglow who was out of town (one of which was given to me by Graham and KJ), swears that he crossed a Striped Corn with an Okeetee Corn to get these snakes. In the absence of a way (nDNA) to verify the genetics of these mutants, we are all left to our personal opinions. Are Tesseras inter-species hybrids just because they remind us of another species or do they owe their appearance to a gene that was naturally hiding in their genome - JUST LIKE the mutation that was in the genome of California Kings and Leopard Rat snakes (and how many others)? Until empirical nDNA proof, there are only personal opinions about their origins. In lieu of scientific proof (or foul play confession from the original breeder), acquire or avoid Tessera Corns, depending on which forum thread you believe. I wonder if many of the allegedly pure corns in our hobby today could have modern alien genes in them? For instance, Joe covets and swears his Lava Mutants are pure corns. From looking at them, I agree, but when he swears they are landrace (so termed for animals lacking human intervention in their breeding) how does he know that? I agree they look purely CORN, but just because someone told him the first one was captured in the wild, does that make it legitimately a wild and natural mutant? AND even if someone truly did find the first one in the wild (a virtual certainty), could that snake have been an escapee from a captive collection? Again, Lavas look purely CORN, but believing Joe as I do - that they are purely corn - it follows that if the guy who sold the first Tessera corns to Graham lied about them being the product of pairing a Striped Corn with an Okeetee Corn, by default Lava mutants could also be inter-species hybrids. I know that isn't comparing apples to apples, but I meant to emphasize that without proof, we are all left to our own opinions about everything we are told. Perhaps at that point, it boils down to credibility. Joe and I used to be close friends and I still consider him an honorable person. He is not declaring that fraud was involved in the making of Tesseras. He's stating that because they remind him of California Kings, they MUST be California King / Corn Snake hybrids. While that may someday be proven, it is currently just an opinion, completely lacking in proof.

Finally, if it is someday proven that perhaps half of all corn snake mutants derived from inter-species hybridization, will everyone just stop keeping and breeding corns? I admit that if someone stepped forward and told the world that he Frankensnaked Tessera Corns, I'd be disappointed, but I'd still keep and "play" with the genetics of this fascinating and beautiful serpent.

South Mountain Reptiles

PS, sorry I didn't have time to post pix that support the similarities of the mutations in Leopard Rats, California Kings, and Corns. To my way of thinking, were I to suggest an alien mutation donor for Tessera Corns, I've had chosen the Leopard Rat Snake species.
Old 01-13-2013, 01:12 PM   #32
Oh! To add to that list of traits found in other species, motley boas! Are they corn snake hybrids too?
Old 01-13-2013, 01:23 PM   #33
Originally Posted by Shiari View Post
Oh! To add to that list of traits found in other species, motley boas! Are they corn snake hybrids too?
of course they are! These striped boas are from Tessera/Cal. king crossings....see the similarities??

Old 01-13-2013, 01:34 PM   #34
dave partington
Originally Posted by Shiari View Post
Oh! To add to that list of traits found in other species, motley boas! Are they corn snake hybrids too?
Back in the day before many of you were conceived, pre-fumigation, small boas would show up in grocery stores, having arrived in boxes of imported tropical fruit.

Throughout time, would it be a stretch to imagine many small animals have been relocated to places they are not native to, and felt uncontrollable urges when the days became longer?
Old 01-13-2013, 01:45 PM   #35
Dave, except for the slight problem that boas are live-bearers?
Old 01-13-2013, 01:46 PM   #36
Mitchell Mulks
Omg Dave, the "uncontrollable urge" comment was hilarious!
Old 01-13-2013, 01:49 PM   #37
Mitchell Mulks

Wonderfully written and thank you for your thoughts. I, like you, regardless of their origins, will always love working with the tessera gene.

Btw, at least we now know how to get you to dust off your keyboard and chime in! Haha.
Old 01-13-2013, 02:20 PM   #38
Tessera is a hot topic! I love them and think there patterns are incredible I will work with them regardless of what proves out, but how would it be proven that they are hybrids? Dna testing? Is that even possible with snakes? Also if they were proven out to be hybrids is it going to change anything? Are we all going to get rid of our Tesseras and never see them in the market again? We all have are own opinions on "hybrids" and why should anyones be better then the next? We need to start supporting each other as snake keepers and look at all the progress that the hobby has made. I have been keeping reptiles since I was a kid and I love them just like most of you out there. Good Luck with this Topic
Old 01-13-2013, 02:26 PM   #39
dave partington
Originally Posted by Shiari View Post
Dave, except for the slight problem that boas are live-bearers?
Megan, my point is that critters of all kinds have been moved around for long time before we had the interwebs, even pre-dating Frank L Slavens publications.
Old 01-13-2013, 05:10 PM   #40
I'm 500% sure tesseras are hybrids. Anyone who doesn't want to breed hybrids can donate their tessaras to me for free (shipping at your costs).

In all seriousness though, from the dozens of threads I've read that have the same subject, I can only conclude that the people who started advertising them as tesseras had no bad intentions. If tesseras were hybrids, it was generations before we ever got to see them. Does it really matter if they are hybrids? I mean, all the snakes we have in our collection have probably been cross-bred at least once in their lineage, even the wild-caught ones. Personally, I'll hang on to my tessera girl whether she's hybrid or not - to me, she's perfect just the way she is


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