Melanin is the most common pigment in the animal kingdom and is responsible for the blacks, browns, and some pink tones on cornsnakes. There are several genes which affect the quantity or quality of the melanins. If you look at a cornsnake's skin under magnification of about 100X (aka "hypermacro") you can see the various shapes and sizes of the black dots, which are the melanin-containing cells. They are normally like little asterisks, a dot with little hair-like dendrites branching out. Hypermacro can be helpful in seeing the differences in various melanin-affecting morphs, and if you're a geek like me, just plain fun!
|· Amelanism completely removes the black pigment. These albinos also have pink/red eyes. The Candycane, Sunglow, and Reverse Okeetee morphs are selectively bred variations based on this trait. With hypermacro the dots are pretty much invisible. In some cases the dots can grow/shrink and become more or less opaque throughout the various parts of a shed cycle.|
| ||· Ultra is an allele to amelanism. It produces a melanin-reduced effect without altering the pattern. As such, Ultra is currently the only opportunity to produce wide-bordered hypo corns. The pupils are ruby, and on many hatchlings the irises are blue or green. Between these two mutant alleles, there can be Amel/Amel (amelanistic) and Amel/Ultra (ultramel) and Ultra/Ultra genotypes. It is currently undetermined whether Ultra/Amel specimens can be reliably separated from Ultra/Ultra specimens by a visual examination alone. With hypermacro the dots are invisible or nearly so for ultramels, and have been visible on the ultra/ultras I have looked at.|
|· Hypomelanism is a generic term for "reduced melanin" and it is also the common name of the first melanin-reducing trait to be discovered. Hypo also has a mild pattern effect: a tendency to reduce the size of the border areas. You will hear references to "hypo types" and this is simply referring to the generic sense: reduction of melanin. The other melanin-reducing genes have no relationship to hypo other than the way we choose to categorize them. With hypermacro the dots are typically slightly less opaque.|
| ||· Strawberry is an allele at the hypo locus. It reduces the blacks without washing out the oranges, leaving snakes with a lot deeper red color, hence the name. Individuals het for both hypo and strawberry seem to take on an intermediate appearance between the two phenotypes. When mixed with anery, lots of pinks tend to develop in the ground color. With hypermacro the dots are typically smaller and can be almost invisible just after a shed, and then may become pretty much normal as the cycle continues. Hypo/straw specimens have had both hypo type dots and strawberry type dots, instead of all dots being intermediate.|
| ||· Christmas is another allele at the hypo locus. It tends to resemble strawberry with the deep red colors. With hypermacro the border areas tend to have cracks/holes in them where you can see around/through the dots, which contrasts with strawberry and hypo whose borders are a single color even under the scope.|
· Sunkissed is a melanin reducer and also has some effect on the pattern. This gene originally popped up in Kathy Love's Okeetee lines, thus many of these snakes still show considerable Okeetee influence. As they continue to be outcrossed they will split more and more clearly into groups of sunkissed versus sunkissed Okeetees. With hypermacro the dots are significantly bigger and lacking in dendrites. The borders are also peppered with dots instead of one solid color. Some sunkisseds have a few or many dots which resemble normal dots, too.
· Lava is a very extreme melanin reducer. Some specimens have flecks of black where the borders would normally be found, and are called "paradox lavas." Hatchlings can appear almost amelanistic, and have ruby eyes. With hypermacro the dots are split into two types. There are clusters of normal-like dots, the rest are very small and nearly clear, or just invisible, depending ont he snake and the quality of the magnification equipment being used.
· Dilute is the mildest known melanin reducer. It also tends to leave the snake in cool tones. With hypermacro the dots are huge compared to all other corns, and they are also lacking dendrites. It is more like a clown suit with big polka dots.
Other lines have been tested and proved compatible with previously known hypos, for example Dream and Strawberry and Christmas proved compatible with the Hypo locus.
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