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 has been the Spider ball morph.
But, this specific morph comes with a lot of controversy. The question is why?
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 more has been with us for over two decades already.
They are also a morph that originated within the United States.
Their popularity grew fairly rapidly for a couple of different reasons.
The first is that they have a very attractive pattern profile. They get their name from it to be exact. The pattern is said to resemble that of spider webs. It differs from other morphs that have thicker colorations bands.
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 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.
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.
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 move in a manner that’s inverse to the norm causing it to end up upside down. And, the snake may have trouble striking prey either missing badly or even sometimes biting itself.
It’s easy to understand how a snake with a sever wobble will have trouble getting proper nutrition.
It should be noted that some other morphs can inherit a wobble as well, such as:
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 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
- They are one of the first morph 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
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 young 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.
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.
At this time it’s up to each individual on how they want to handle the spider ball python controversy.