Cornelius' Corner:

"Spook-tacular Camouflage!"
30
Oct

Cornelius’ Corner: “Spook-tacular Camouflage!”

Happy Halloween, friends!

Wild type Corn Snake

Did you know that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays? I can’t help it, because I’m a ghost morph!

No, this doesn’t mean I’m a ghost snake, but it does mean that my coloration is gray like a ghost. This is different from most Corn Snakes in the wild. Those snakes are typically colored red, orange, and brown with contrasting black markings and a black-and-white checkerboard pattern on their bellies. Some people think that these bright colors mean that Corn Snakes are venomous snakes, but the colors are an important part of our camouflage!

Corn Snakes can often be found hunting both on the ground in the leaf litter and up in trees. The contrasting colored patches on our scales help to break up the outline of our shape as we move around. Many animals are wary of snake-shaped things, so making our silhouette harder to see goes a long way toward making it harder for both predators and prey to see us!

Cornelius showing off his ghost morph camouflage.

So where does being a ghost morph fit in? A color morph is what scientists call it when an animal has a different color or pattern than what is considered the “normal” or “wild” type. In my case, my color comes from the fact that I am lacking red and orange pigments. I also have low levels of melanin, which is the pigment that makes scales look black. As a result, places that would be black on a wild Corn Snake look gray on me!

Sometimes color morphs happen when a single snake hatches with unique genetics that impact their color or pattern. For example, a snake might hatch with yellow spots instead of orange. When that snake breeds, its offspring might also show yellow spots. Over time, it is possible to end up with an entire population of snakes in a geographically distinct area that all have yellow spots!

Other times, color morphs are the result of snake owners carefully breeding their snakes together to get a new unique pattern. Corn Snakes are easy to breed and a lot of different color morphs have been developed over the years, including creamsicle and palmetto! Much like all of the different breeds of dogs in the world, people have bred many different morphs of Corn Snakes over the years. To date, there are over 830 distinct color morphs!

Creamsicle (left) and palmetto (right) morph Corn Snakes.

Luckily for me, being a ghost morph means that I have a built-in Halloween costume ready to go! My neighbor Tommy Toad says he’s going to go as a rock. I think he’ll blend in really well, but people might not be able to find him to give him cricket treats!

What is your Halloween costume? Feel free to stop by my tank in the Visitor Center to show it off!

– Cornelius

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