A python with an emoticon pattern

To end the week, have a look at this “smiley-face” lavender albino ball python:

As Science Alert notes:

A selective python breeder has created an Emoji Ball Python snake after eight years of trying.

Justin Kobylka breeds snakes with unique patterns and sells them.

The patterns are caused by recessive mutations that do occur naturally, but it is extremely unlikely to happen in the wild.

The extremely rare snake could be sold for at least US $4,500 but Justin told Business Insider that he will keep this particular animal due to its “uniqueness”.

Such is the power of artificial selection, the analogue of natural selection that was described by Darwin thusly in the second edition of The Origin:

Breeders habitually speak of an animal’s organisation as something quite plastic, which they can model almost as they please.

Now it’s hard to imagine an environment in nature that would give smiley-faced snakes a selective advantage, but there are plenty of equally amazing results of natural selection, like making caterpillars resemble snakes:


  1. Posted May 5, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I like what nature offers better!

  2. busterggi
    Posted May 5, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I’d be more impressed had they bred a python with Pac Man chasing the ghosts but I’m fussy.

  3. GBJames
    Posted May 5, 2017 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Looks like the Virgin Mary to me.

  4. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted May 5, 2017 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Do any of these … to be polite, “sport” … breeders publish pictures of their intermediate steps. And the count of discarded (and likely dead) failures.

  5. Posted May 5, 2017 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Would you believe…?

  6. Laurance
    Posted May 6, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Oh man! Oh wow! Oh sh*t!! I have such mixed emotions about this!!

    I have a problem with breeders. For one thing, ANIMALS ARE *NOT* MERCHANDISE!! (Yes, caps, I’m shouting.) They are living creatures who suffer pain and do not deserve to be created so that a human bean can make some money.

    Oh, and people who breed dogs and cats!! I’ve seen up close and personal what pure breeding can breed! Dogs that get seizures. Persian cats with genetic disorders that lead to an early death.

    (Here I’m speaking specifically of my dearly beloved Persian cat, Booger, whom I rescued and who died at age nine of a genetic bone disorder. I loved that cat! I miss him.)

    (And today is Caturday, isn’t it…)

    I love snakes. And I love ball pythons in particular. And although I love mine dearly I object to the exotic animal trade that sells these little reptiles so casually.

    No, I didn’t buy my snakes from a dealer. My first and my favorite snake, Julius Squeezer, was a rescue. A stupid bonehead college student just dumped her because he couldn’t care for her. Stimpy is my second guy. His owner asked me if I’d adopt him when his circumstances changed and he couldn’t keep Stimpy any more. I’m glad he didn’t even think of dumping Stimpy but wanted him to have a good home. Nicholas was about to be dumped, and my Favorite Family Member asked me if I’d rescue him. (Nicholas is now with my super-duper son-in-law, and that’s a story…)

    Animals get dumped! Shelters are full of them! Too many animals are in need of a Forever Home, so why keep breeding and breeding? (Yeah, to make money.)

    So there’s the anti-breeding rant.

    At the same time I have to say that the emoticon snake looks nifty! Now I want to haul Julius Squeezer out of her tank and see if there are any way cool images in her markings. Maybe I can even find Jesus pictured on her. And who or what might I find on Stimpy? There are some really beautiful morphs being produced and they are a sight to behold.

    Yes, way cool snake…but this is a living creature. Is this one and his/her siblings treated well? Gravelinspector-Aidan has asked about the other little snakes who did not have the desired designs and what has happened to them. $4,500 for this particular one? Really? What was the value of the other little lives, lives that were not pretty in the right way?

    I’ve said enough now and will shut up and not go into my rant about large pythons who can kill owners who commit SFE’s (Stupid Feeding Errors), and careless a$$holes who are into Hot Herps (venomous) and put themselves and other people in danger.

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 7, 2017 at 2:48 am | Permalink

      “I’ve said enough now and will shut up and not go into my rant about large pythons who can kill owners who commit SFE’s (Stupid Feeding Errors…”

      I’d be interested in hearing that one…

      • Laurance
        Posted May 7, 2017 at 8:09 am | Permalink

        Burmese pythons can be pleasant, mellow, good-natured snakes, as are many if not most ball pythons. The thing is, even the most likeable and easy-going python becomes a heat-seeking missle when it’s Feeding Time at the Zoo.

        My ball pythons are not a danger to me. I wear a glove in case they miss the rat and get my hand instead, which happens on very rare occasions. (As for the rats, I do not feed live. Bad for both the prey and the predator. I thaw out frozen rats – ratsicles – so that nobody gets hurt.)

        Burmese pythons get BIG. People go and buy the cute little baby Burm, aww, what a sweet little snakey-poo…uh…and then the snake is five feet, and then seven feet, and then ten, twelve feet and still growing. Whatcha gonna do? You go and dump the snake somewhere. If you’re in Florida, well, that’s why Florida has this heavy-duty problem with great big invasive snakes. The largest Burm in captivity reached eighteen feet, while in the wild they can reach twenty three feet. And pythons are STRONG. That’s all muscle.

        When I see my little ball pythons going into feeding mode I say, over and over, “I’m sure glad you guys aren’t Burms!” That’s aggressive and pure powerful reptile comin’ atcha. I’d be scared to death to have a Burm (or a reticulated python, which is the longest snake in the world and can reach thirty feet, although most don’t reach that length) coming at me with that intense body language…

        A Burm owner has to be very careful. The snake will smell the prey and strike. It’s best to have helpers, one person for each four feet of snake, who know what to do in an emergency.

        (Don’t tug at the snake’s head, the teeth will only dig in farther. Unwrap the snake tail first. Snakes are pretty much a one way street. Pulling the head and you’re pulling against the snake’s strength.

        Alcohol can be used to get the snake to let go. Do not pour the vodka or everclear into the snake’s mouth, though! You’ll really hurt the snake and maybe choke the snake to death with the stuff. Have a spray bottle instead.)

        Stupid Feeding Errors. SFE’s. Not having the snake carefully confined, not having helpers, helpers not knowing what to do, getting the prey scent all over yourself…I read about a young fellow who was killed by his pet Burm because he’d been carrying the prey and had the scent on himself. His snake was not confined and smelled the scent on his hands and shirt when he came into the room, and the snake killed him.

        What a rant! I wouldn’t want snake lovers to not be able to have snakes. Rather, I’d support licensing. Anybody who wants a large constrictor or a venomous snake should take training in safety and snake care and pass a test and have their snake room or snake tank inspected. While my snakes too small to be dangerous I’d still be willing to take training and pass a test and inspection. Dogs are licensed, and dog bites bring consequences. I’d be willing to have my snakes licensed.

        • Diane G.
          Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for that–a nice, chilling read. About what I expected and what I also think about owning giant/venomous snakes. I think your licensing idea is brilliant!

          I wonder–could snakes be microchipped and then entered into a central registry? I’m thinking that if owners know they could be tracked down and penalized if they release their snakes there might be fewer releases.

          • Laurance
            Posted May 9, 2017 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

            I like your idea about chipping and registering as a way to discourage dumping.

            What is also needed are animal rescues that take unwanted reptiles. You can take your unwanted cat or dog to the SPCA, but not all such places want snakes. We need rescue organizations that are able to take a variety of exotic animals.

            • Diane G.
              Posted May 10, 2017 at 2:56 am | Permalink

              Oh, very good point! That would require some pretty specialized knowledge, as you’ve described above, and I guess it would have to survive on donations.

              I know there are a few places that take Sulcata tortoises, and others that take green iguanas–as you know, both are often bought as cute little babies which then outgrow most people’s abilities to keep them properly. But the more exotic reptiles are quite out of luck, I’m sure.

              (If you’re at all interested in Chelonians, you might enjoy this little story about my Russian Tortoises: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/07/03/readers-wildlife-photos-291/ )

  7. embee
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Clever, but prefer the natural. 🙂

    • Laurance
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      I, too, prefer snakes in their natural state. My ball pythons are so beautiful. I love their colors and patterns just as they are. I feel no need to spend megabucks to get an artificially created snake.

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