Thursday, July 24, 2008

100% Het. For Herper

Reptile/amphibian enthusiasts (herpers) can seem to speak their own language. The herp language is not that difficult to learn. Just memorize the scientific names of 10 or more snakes common to the pet trade and you can fit right in. Start with Elaphe Guttata Guttata (the corn snake). This is the snake most herpers start out with and every pet store in America has them, but you'll need to know how to recognize a sunglow motley zigzag freckled hypo Miami phase corn or you'll look stupid. Elaphe Guttata means "spotted deer", which makes you wonder how smart the scientists were that applied these names. Even non-herpers can tell the difference between a snake and a deer. The scientific name for Racer is "Coluber Constrictor". Whoever applied that scientific name never observed these snakes as they never constrict anything, they simply bite, hold on until the prey gives up, or swallow quickly if the initial strike is in the right place. Our local Great Basin Gophersnake has been given the scientific name "Deserticola", which sounds like the namers became thirsty out in Utah's west desert. If you find the "normal" phase of any snake to be appealing, keep it a secret or you'll end up looking even more stupid. Normal is not exotic and snakes are supposed to be exotic. If you like normal pets, go buy a dog. I know a person that thinks normal pueblan milk snakes are the prettiest of all snakes, but wouldn't admit it in certain company. Some snakes are distinguished from other similar looking snakes by the number of lower labial (bottom jaw) scales. Who would have ever thought to count those? Scale count knowledge isn't as important for impressing fellow herpers as it is for avoiding wildlife laws in some states. At reptile shows, any snake with the title "het" in its description will be more expensive. The word heterozygous simply means that an animal looks normal, but will have offspring that are predictably not normal. By this definition, we can all be considered heterozygous for something. When it comes to our own offspring, most of us hope we are 100% het for normal.