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Carotene Experiment
Genetics For Herpers

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August 2011
I still get questions about this experiment so I left this page up. I later discovered that Seven is het for hypo, and this (or just sibling variation) may account for the differences in color between him and Rover. I repeated a similar experiment a couple of years ago and got no significant differences between siblings. Maybe someone else has tried similar things, but if they have I've never seen or heard of anyone else publishing their results. If you know of any such experiments let me know. :)

Late 2001
After almost 8 months, there is definitely a noticable difference in color. This experiment has not established a definite causal relationship between carotene intake and coloration, but the evidence so far does seem to point in that direction.

To my surprise, the biggest change seems to have been in the background color: the yellows and oranges have changed a lot more in Rover than in Seven. I would have assumed the reds would be affected, too, but so far their saddle colors have remained identical as far as my eyes can tell.

The good news is that someone else is also starting the same experiment with a pair of hatchlings. This should help to pile up more evidence about what the effects of this are.

Here is a picture taken after 7 months of supplements given to Rover. As mentioned, the most dramatic differences are on the side of the neck, and Rover's dark-orangey background versus Seven's straw-colored background.



May 12th, 2001
Rover shed April 21st, and Seven just shed yesterday, on Friday May 11th. That was a wierd shed cycle, because Rover had a little dryness in this shed, and Seven took forever to shed. Up until now, theyíve always been within a few days of each other. Iíve still been feeding them at the same pace, and Rover took only 37 days to shed, whereas Seven took 54 days, which seems unusually long for a 8-9 month old that is feeding regularly.

After comparing them using just my eyeballs, itís my opinion that Roverís background color is noticably more orange overall, whereas Seven still has pretty much the same tan background as before. Note that by noticable I mean, ďhmm... Rover appears to be a little more orange... [holds them together to compare] ... Yep, Rover is just a tad more orange...Ē In other words, itís a long way from being blaringly obvious from a distance of 10 feet. The largest change has been in the neck and tail, and on the top between the red blotches.

So far, all this has established is a possible correlation, which is a looong way from having established a cause-effect relationship. I donít know if other factors are involved that Iím not seeing (including heating, lighting, my desires/expectations altering my perception, the possibility that this long shed cycle had some relation, etc.) but itís definitely encouraging and more than I had expected in such a short time.

I thought it might take several sheds to get any noticable results, but if this much change really is caused by the carotene supplements, Rover should be considerably more orange than Seven after a few more sheds and at that point if itís still looking good, I can then try to come up with other things to ensure this isnít just a coincidence.

I should be able to get a picture up in about 2 weeks (camera is being used by its owner...)

March 19th, 2001


The experiment Started last Friday. Rover shed (and ate) last Friday, and Seven just shed today.

Seven and Rover (or Sven & Raver as one of my friends likes to call them) on March 19th, 2001.



The above picture was taken with my cheap webcam to establish a base for comparison. Oddly enough, Rover--draped across my pinky--appears to already have more orange in his background than Seven. In reality they both have more orange-ish backgrounds than the picture shows, and neither is any more orange or red than the other at this point.

According to several sources Iíve researched, cornsnakes (and reptiles and other animals) get their red and yellow colors from carotenes in their diets. The idea of this experiment is to determine if carotene supplements will have any effect on color development in cornsnakes. I will be using Rover and Seven to test, with Rover receiving supplements and Seven as the ďcontrolĒ group. I chose these two because they are about as similar as any two corns can get. They are Ď00 clutchmates with the same two parents, Pinky and Brutus. They both eat hoppers now as their meals, and they are very similar in size, color, temperament, etc.

The supplements are being provided in the form of Hikari Cichlid Gold (color enhancer) fish food pellets. Three of these tiny pellets are ground into a powder, put into a small amount of water, and then ďinjectedĒ into the thawed food itemís esophagus with a syringe and some aquarium tubing. (YUMMY!) Since these are supposed to be a daily food supplement for fish, I am confident this shouldnít pose any kind of risk to Rover despite any differences in nutritional requirements for fish. Especially considering the fish eat all of it they want on a daily basis, and he is getting a ~10 gram hopper with a few milligrams of pellet, most of which is protein and other general stuff anyway. At this point Iím not even sure if the amount of carotene will even make a noticable difference. If after a couple of sheds (~6-8weeks at this stage) he is not showing any changes, I will probably be picking up some beta carotene at GNC and trying that.

If you have any questions, comments, info, or anything else, email me at serpwidgets@hotmail.com.

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