Hey so I've seen a lot of posts about high quality vs low quality phenotypic reptiles (esp like leopard geckos and ball pythons) and I was wondering what high quality vs low quality phenotypic Kenyan sand boas look like/how to tell? :)
OH BOY IS THIS A FANTASTIC QUESTION.
I have very little experience with leo morphs and genetics, so I’ll make comparisons to ball pythons.
So comparing breeding quality in BPs and sandboas is like… difficult. They could NOT be more different. Not because a quality difference doesn’t exist, but because with sandboas, we are talking about two separate gene pools: Homo/Heterozygous mutation phenotypic traits and locality phenotypic traits. The two are VERY separate, can be combined, and are bred for or against based on the goals of the specific breeder.
Let’s start with mutation traits. The main, singular heritable traits found in sandboas are:
Anery (most common)
Albino (second most common)
Paradox (third most common)
HGW (High Genetic White)
Hypo/Ghost (this is VERY new)
The main, heritable LOCALITY trait in sandboas is:
ALL variations of stripe (wide stripe, granite stripe, pepper stripe,etc.)
ALL variations of reduced pattern EXCEPT HGW
The main, line bred/selectively bred traits in sandboas that are NOT locality specific are:
Yellow ground color (Egyptian locality)
Rufescens (Smaller size, brown/black, very little orange, tiger, possibly gray belly scales)
Dodoma (reduced pattern of varying degrees)
Many of these traits can be combined.
In mutations, the degree of quality is relatively objective. Let’s take a look at the first sandboa color morph: The Anery.
(From Sand Boa Classifieds FB Page, Patrick Smigocki)
(From Mason Dixon Sandboas)
(From VMS herp)
Look at these three examples of anery. Which would you rather breed?
There is really only one quality example of anery here: The one on the bottom! The top sandboa is VERY dirty, a trait usually avoided with anery animals. The middle animal is… just okay. Still pretty dirty, and that disrupts the stark contrast between the black and white. The bottom, on the other hand, is minimally dirty and has decent contrast. Unfortunately, as inexperienced keepers and breeders scoop up anery sandboas (you can find one for 40 dollars at shows sometimes) the quality of anery has tanked. You see a lot more animals that look like #1 and 2 than #3.
You can see the same muddied traits in albino. For example:
Now, if we ignore the fact that the second sandboa is a paradox albino, that the second boa is on a blue background that makes the orange pop, AND I think albinos are ugly anyway, we have the following color difference:
The second sandboa has MUCH more contrast. If you bred the first animal, you’d be left with muddy, low contrast albino and het albino animals. You find this kind of thing in every sandboa morph.
On the other genetic pool, you have locality traits that can be isolated, line bred, improved, and combined with morph traits.
Let’s look at a very dramatic locality: The Dodoma.
Note: The above snake is a high content Dodoma cross. Pure Dodoma locality snakes are very rare and kept almost exclusively by Warren Treacher and a handful of others.
The Dodoma sandboa is named for the Dodoma Valley where they are found in Tanzania. These sandboas have bred together over time to have an overall reduced pattern. This trait is genetic, but is a TENDENCY toward a specific pattern, not a morph. Dodoma crosses (usually with normal patterned KSBs) are called California Flames (Cal Flame) and look like this:
(From Russo’s Reptiles)
This Cal Flame has the almost bald Dodoma head, the soft orange/peach color, and low black markings. Dodoma animals of varying content and expression are combined with morph mutations and result in some incredible animals.
We should also understand that an animal can have Dodoma CONTENT, or exhibit Dodoma traits, but an animal CANNOT be “het” Dodoma. Dodoma is not a gene! It is a specific, naturally line bred look.
Rufescens sandboas are another locality morph. According to Warren Treacher’s The Sandboa Book, the Rufescens sandboa is a naturally occurring locality within Ethiopia. They first arrived in the US in 2002, and when bred, produce a plethora of crossed appearances.
(Hamburger, my pure Rufescens sandboa)
(A Rufescens from Scott Miller’s line)
(Rufescens female from Mason Dixon Sandboas)
When bred to other sandboas, Rufescens crosses produce…
Interestingly, in Rufescens content animals, stripe is a dominant trait, but when the various types of stripe are combined, they begin to get muddy like a mutation would. Tigers, though a decidedly Rufescens trait, are NOT heritable in the het/homozygous sense. They are heritable as the Dodoma pattern tendency is heritable.
So, what makes a good breeding quality locality animal? Unlike mutation color morphs, the markers of quality are less clear cut. It depends on what you are breeding FOR. It could be a new Dodoma combo, with high contrast. Perhaps a new kind of stripe. Maybe you want to create a Rufescens cross Tiger that is also an albino. If you have a PLAN with locality animals, and your animals exhibit or produce offspring that exhibit the traits you find desirable, you are on the right track.
So: In short, with morph animals you should use similar criteria that you would use with ball pythons. Is the patterning interesting? Is the contrast high? Does the animal express its color well? Do the combined genes compliment one another?
With locality and locality cross animals, you should consider how an animal fits into your plans. Does it exhibit traits you want to breed toward? Can you combine this with other traits you find interesting? Can you safely breed animals with the same traits while limiting your inbreeding coefficient? Is the animal labeled with its correct locality? (For example: ALL stripes are Rufescens crosses, but rarely labeled as such.)
So, uh. Yeah. I hope that was at least a little helpful. It’s really late and I’m going to bed.