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Posted by oldherper on April 06, 2003 at 11:38:08:
In Reply to: well. it's complicated- posted by meretseger on April 06, 2003 at 07:39:38:
You know, I just can't keep up with the changes in classification and taxonomy. In the past 30 years it seems like everything has changed. Well, not that the animals have changed, but what we know about them has.
In the past few years it seems like there has been a great deal of emphasis on creating "designer" morphs and hybrids. I understand the point when dealing with naturally occuring genetic mutations, such as albinism, xanthism, anerythrism, etc. Hell, I followed H. Berndt Bechtel's early work on albinism and genetics in Elaphe guttata guttata closely (Herp Journal)and was fascinated with his findings. When the first albino Naja naja kaouthia started showing up I thought that was cool. Those sorts of things were the result of research in genetics at places like The University of Iowa at Ames and similar programs.
Now I'm just not sure where we are headed. I mean, some of the morphs are beautiful to look at, don't get me wrong. I don't think I have as much problem with things like breeding albino nelsoni or albino sinaloea or that sort of thing. Albinos do occur naturally in the wild populations and they are really quite beautiful animals. Or even piebald P. regius (although I think $15,000.00 for a ball python is ridiculous no matter what it looks like. It's still a ball python). What I'm having trouble coming to grips with is some of the hybrids I'm seeing in the past few years. Nature has created natural barriers to keep the different genera from interbreeding, be it differences in reproductive cycle timing, geographic separation or whatever. I can understand breeding between genera for the purposes of understanding the mechanics of natural separation, but that's not what today's "hybrids" are all about. We are now cheating nature to produce hybrid animals that were not intended by nature for our own pleasure.
It's getting to the point now that people aren't even bothering with natural coloration patterns anymore, because the market bears more money for the morphs. Is it possible that we could breed the natural patterns out of existence in captivity? On the other hand could we breed these morphs down to a point that their genetics are so mutated we can't even produce viable animals anymore? A considerable amount of line breeding and inbreeding goes on to produce some of these things.
In the "old days" the point of field collecting was to get fresh genes in our captive pool to prevent too much inbreeding. The point of our breeding programs was to get our captive populations to the point that field collecting would be largely unecessary. We were in it to enjoy the natural beauty of the animals and to provide for our children to have an opportunity to enjoy these animals without decimating wild populations. Is what we're seeing now the natural progression from all that? It seems to me that we may be losing interest in the natural herpetofauna in favor of "man-made" animals. To me that's a shame.
:There's a North American Lampropeltid 'group' including Pitophis, Elaphe (now called Pantherophis in NA, I guess), and Lampropeltis. It appears that all three of these genera can interbreed and produce fertile offspring, even though it doesn't happen naturally in the wild. People commonly breed kings and corns together and call them 'jungle corns'. .