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The Genetics of The Bumblebee Ball Python

written by: bjlbyron•edited by: Emma Lloyd•updated: 9/20/2010

Bumblebee ball pythons are popular pets among reptile owners. If you are interested in obtaining one, there is no need looking around outside as they cannot be found in the wild. Instead, they must be generated by snake breeders. Find out about the genetics of a bumblebee ball python here.

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    What is a Bumblebee Ball Python?

    Ball pythons (Python regius) are indigenous to Western and West Central Africa. They were given the name "ball python" as it is their habit to form a ball-like shape whenever they are threatened. Ball pythons are closely related to boas and to other pythons. Like boas and other pythons, they constrict their prey, such as a mouse or other small rodent, for example, by coiling around it and squeezing until the prey suffocates to death. In the wild, ball pythons are nocturnal, and therefore they hunt at night and rest underground during the day.

    At the time of birth, a typical ball python is about 16-18 inches long, while adult ball pythons can be as long as three or even four feet. Wild ball pythons, on average, live about 20-30 years.

    The bumblebee ball python, which is shown below, is a gorgeous yellow and black snake that is generally docile and, unlike other ball pythons, does not occur naturally in the wild. Instead, this snake is produced by man through one of multiple possible deliberate breeding schemes, the genetics of which are explained in the next section.


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    What are the Genetics of a Bumblebee Ball Python?

    Bumblebee ball pythons can be generated through one of at least two different mating schemes. In one mating scheme (which was the original mating scheme that snake breeders used to create bumblebee ball pythons), a bumblebee ball python is obtained by mating a spider ball python to a pastel ball python. The spider ball python is heterozygous for Spider, which is a dominant mutation, and the pastel ball python is heterozygous for Pastel, which is a co-dominant mutation. One type of ball python that will emerge from such a mating is the bumblebee ball python, which is heterozygous for both the dominant trait Spider and the co-dominant trait Pastel. (It is expected that, on average, 25% of all pythons produced by such a mating will be bumblebee ball pythons.)

    In the second breeding scheme, a bumblebee ball python can be bred to a normal, or "wild-type", ball python (that is, a ball python that is free of mutation). In this mating scheme, on average:

    • 25% of the baby pythons will carry both the Spider and Pastel mutations, and therefore will be bumblebee ball pythons;
    • 25% of the baby pythons will carry only the Spider mutation, and therefore will be spider ball pythons;
    • 25% of the baby pythons will carry only the Pastel mutation, and therefore will be pastel ball pythons; and
    • 25% of the baby pythons will carry neither mutation, and therefore will be normal ball pythons.

    As you can see, the genetics of bumblebee ball pythons are fairly complicated. Can you think of any other possible mating schemes for generating these gorgeous animals?

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    Ball Pythons:

    Troubleshooting Guide to Ball Pythons:

    V. Russo, Ball Python Morphs:

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    Image Credit

    Bumblebee Ball Python - Photobucket: