Mar 16, 2017 I Micah Hanks

The “Art” of Selective Breeding Put a Smile on This Python… Literally

It took him nearly eight years to complete, but what resulted from his years of experimentation was a strange masterpiece in biological selective breeding.

A white python, covered in yellow spots resembling smiley "Emojis", was recently revealed by a selective breeder in Florida, as what may indeed be the most unique markings ever to appear on a python. The snake's unique markings also depict what resemble "alien" heads, featuring a distinctive teardrop shape, and large spots in the areas where the eyes would be expected to appear.

The odd-looking “Emoji Ball Python”, as the creature was dubbed, was created by Justin Kobylka, who has worked for years as a professional breeder of snakes. His "creations" feature a variety of unique patterns, colors, and markings, which he typically sells for high-dollar prices.

The snake's body is covered in unusual markings resembling "emojis"

The selective breeding process Kobylka used is similar to that used to produce specific dog breeds, and a number of other animals with specialized appearances or traits. Recessive mutations dictate the appearance of such markings as those on Kobylka’s emoji python, and although unusual patters like this do sometimes appear in nature, the appearance of distinctive “smiley faces” are very rare.

Typically, the marking that appear on snake species are generally limited to diamonds, rings, crossbands, or blotches, while a number of species possess stripes that run lengthwise down the body. The markings, while sometimes irregular, are generally symmetrical. Blotches and crossbands may take distinctive shapes, such as the "hourglass" appearance that can be found on species such as the copperhead (agkistrodon contortrix), a poisonous species found throughout the eastern United States.

Elsewhere in the animal kingdom, the general fear of our our slithering, scaly friends is utilized by other species for protection. Namely, this occurs among various caterpillar species, whose distinctive markings resemble a snake. This is most apparent with the hawkmoth caterpillar, which protects itself during its larval stage in a most unique way: the caterpillar, when threatened, retracts its legs and head, inflating the front of its body in a manner that resembles--almost eerily--the scaly head of a snake (you can see images of this remarkable creature here).

It's been an unusual week in the world of herpetology in general. Recently here at MU, our writer Paul Seaburn reported on a man in India that says he "regularly gets high" by allowing a cobra to bite him on the lip. His bizarre claims even prompted a review by scientists, the results of which appeared in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry.

Some of the snake's markings resemble traditional "alien" heads.

Business Insider reported that Kobylka estimated his emoji-covered python would typically sell for around $4,500. However, due to the snake’s unique appearance, he plans to keep the animal as an unusual pet… perhaps the world’s rarest as far as snakes and their markings go.

Micah Hanks

Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.

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