The very popular pet snake, ball pythons, come in hundreds if not thousands of different morphs. One of the most popular ones over the last several years not just in the USA but throughout the entire world has been the Spider ball morph.
But, this specific morph comes with a lot of controversy. The question is why?
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Origin & Popularity
Spider ball pythons have been around for quite some time. To be more specific, they were first bred in 1999. That means this very cool looking yet also troubled reptile has been with us for over two decades already.
Though ball pythons are native to Asia and Africa, the Spider morph is one that originated within the United States.
Their popularity grew fairly rapidly for a couple of different reasons.
First, hey get their name from very attractive pattern profile. But, you may still be asking yourself, “Where did the spider name come from?”
The pattern and markings that make them attractive to buyers is said to resemble that of spider webs, thus the name. It differs from other morphs that have thicker colorations bands that some feel resemble spider webs.
Part of their unique look also is often found on their heads. Many people believe it looks like a skull pattern.
The second reason is what has made this a very controversial mutation: some of them have a wobble.
What is a Spider Ball Python Wobble?
A head wobble is a neurological disorder that is carried in the spider gene. As this is a dominate trait, every single spider ball python is technically affected by it making prevention impossible.
Sometimes the wobble is so minor it’s not noticeable, but in other circumstances it cannot be missed. In the most severe cases, it’s downright debilitating.
How can i tell if my pet python has a wobble?
A minor head wobble is just what it sounds like. The snake may have trouble holding its head steady, and it will wobble back and forth.
More sever symptoms are corkscrewing, where the snake moves in a manner that’s inverse to the norm causing it to end up upside down. And, due to poor coordination the snake may have trouble striking prey either missing badly or even sometimes biting itself. Handling and feeding the snake can be more dangerous for the owner as well as missed strikes can catch them in the line of fire. Even though they are not venomous, bites can become infected.
This video shows a spider ball python with a significant wobble. As you can see it’s easy to understand how a snake with a severe wobble will have trouble getting proper nutrition, which can then lead to further health issues.
Can it be treated?
A spider ball python wobble can be treated by a number of different methods. The most common and effective method is to simply place the snake in a tub of warm water for a period of time. This will help to loosen the muscles and allow the snake to move more freely. Another method that can be used is to massage the affected area with a warm, damp cloth. This will also help to loosen the muscles and allow the snake to move more freely.
However, this is simply a treatment aimed at reducing the symptoms. It’s not a cure.
What is the difference between a spider ball python wobble and other types of wobbles?
It should be noted that some other morphs can inherit a wobble as well, such as:
There are a few key differences between a spider ball python wobble and other types of wobbles. For one, spider ball pythons tend to have a more pronounced wobble than other types of pythons. This is due to the fact that their bodies are more slender and their muscles are not as well developed. This can make it difficult for them to move in a straight line and can cause them to wobble more.
Also, as mentioned before, due to the fact that the spider gene is dominant and not recessive, crossbreeding with a spider ball will more often than not result in the wobble getting passed on.
A Debate of Ethics
It’s difficult to believe that there are still people on both sides of the debate on whether spider ball breeding should continue. There are so many other amazing morphs available without major genetic defects, it’s difficult to support the pro-spider side of the debate.
But, for the sake of fairness, here are some of the more common reasons on why enthusiasts feel breeding is OK:
- They are a unique morph and a wobble should not force them out of existence
- Since they a bred and cared for in captivity, they don’t need to have the same natural hunting skills a wild snake needs and can still live for up to 20 years
- They are one of the first morphs and their genetic line should be kept alive for the sake of legacy
And, here are a few of the reasons on why many say breeding should cease:
- Continuing to extend the genetic line of a morph with a severe debilitating neurological disorder is immoral and cruel
- There are so many different morphs available there is no need to promote one with a disability
- They will have an unnecessarily decreased quality of life and premature death
Regardless of which side of the argument you land on, there are still breeders who continue producing spider balls. They will even force feed the baby snakes that cannot fend for themselves.
Spider ball pythons are a beautiful but highly flawed morph. The gene that gives them their very cool spiderweb patterns and colors also carries with it a very serious genetic defect that causes neurological problems with no way to tell the true severity of the wobble until the snake begins to mature.
Sometimes those problems are minor but in many instances they are not.
Though many breeders and reptile fanatics have come out against the continuation of breeding spider balls, others have kept the practice ongoing, mainly for the same that the breed makes them a lot of money.
At this time it’s up to each individual on how they want to handle the spider ball python controversy, and having easy access to correct information on the breed can help them make an informed decision.