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Color characteristics of neonate green tree pythons, and observations on later adult color characteristics

by Winslow Murdoch

Green tree python neonates are often quite different in appearance, even within a given clutch.

Certain pattern, and color characteristics are predictive of the future color patterns, and varieties in the adult animals, but there is significant variation within the clutch for what areas turn specific colors, and their final color saturation intensities. Of note are animals with dorsal brown or black lines, on the vertebral ridge, with small triangular side spikes coming down off the mid line. If the neonate was yellow, as they grow, these markings lighten up, and turn a reddish brown. As the animal generally turns green, the pattern often darkens again into a purple hue, and may turn blue, or fade into the surrounding darkening green pigment, and largely disappear. This disappearance seems largely dependent on the parents color patterning. Locality type may also play a role. White and yellow spots and off vertebral triangular patterns likewise may stay, or suffuse green later in the color change.

Some yellow animals turn green through a gradual process, in which the green pigment softly suffuses into the yellow areas, and the animal turns green slowly in a generalized fashion. This also tends to occur more with certain locality morphs (my Sorong types), while others (my Jayapura types) tend to have another variation, as well as this gradual process. Firstly, a few scales turn very dark green, almost black. This scattered, seemingly disordered patchy color change gets more diffuse, and generalized. The brown/ red pattern darkens up to almost a black, and later turns purple to blue. Finally, some animals turn green/ blue starting with the tip of the nose, and then generally fill in over the rest of the body in a more generalized way.

Brown neonates all go through a phase where they lighten up, and look like their red clutch mates, on their way to green. Both the red and brown animals get lighter, sometimes turning orange, and turn green in a generalized gradual diffuse way. They retain their red eyes well into maturity, but then lose this characteristic generally by age three to five.

The Aru islands morph is perhaps the only true locality animal that is fairly accurately represented, though Iíve seen dealers call obvious non-Aru animals by that name, either out of ignorance, of to simply market what they sort of looked like. Aru morph animals are known for the blue ventral scales toward the hind part of the body. The babies have a definite pattern of partially gray scales that form two interrupted parallel dotted lines down either side of the ventral scales. As these animals mature, and color change, these dotted lines turn blue, and the pigment spills out over their previously white ventral scales from the outside in. Also, the bases of the ventral scales turn gray, and this pigment diffuses out from under the scale caudal to it. This starts in the mid-line, and spreads out prior to turning blue. They also have an interrupted vertebral dark pattern that seems staggered. One triangular dark pattern comes off the mid-line to the right, and the next (unconnected pattern triangle) comes off to the left, a little farther down. None of the neonates that Iíve seen from this locality have had a continuous vertebral red or dark stripe. As they color turn some retain a vertebral yellow stripe as the sides turn dark green. From this comes the interrupted white, yellow, red, and beige flecks, also characteristic of this morph. They also have a reputation as being more tractable, and are on of my personal favorites, especially those with lots of dorsal blue.

As to the issue of high yellow animals, the Biak island morph are reputed to be the most vicious tempered pythons available, but generally have high yellow content. They also have a tendency to lose the yellow at a later stage in maturation, and will sometimes end up generally green after three to four years, and be the same as any other yellow predominant locality morph. Trooper and Eugene are breeding animals that likely originated in Biak, that are generally high in yellow, some have blue highlights and others donít. I have a strain that is similar, usually with a contrasting blue pattern. These and any babies are highly variable, so one way to get what you want would be to buy color changed yearlings and hedge your bets. These animals come at a dear price however.

Jayapura types (variable saturation of green, variable amounts of blue dorsal markings, but sometimes a lot!, and light unicolor ventral scales, and generally a green tail) are very!! variable, as are the other mainland forms such as Timika (tend to have higher incidence of total blue color change in older adult females, and possibly? males), Mereuke ?spelling. (in pictures look somewhat similar to Aru morphs (without? The blue ventral scales?), but the amount of white spotting on the dorsal vertebral line approximates a line of continuous white, like amazon basin emeralds, but IMHO, the amazon basins are much prettier), and Sorong or birds head types that are variable lighter green, yellow or cream ventrals, variable blue dorsally, lessened white and yellow speckling dorsally, and generally all have black tipped tails. These general color types are just basic characteristics, and I agree that there are outrageous and bland locality types, as well as captive hybrid types. Several superficially similar looking animals may occur in different localities, but I see the market selectively breeding for desirable color traits in line, regardless of locality status. Early on, there will be unacceptable color variances within a clutch as they develop adult color, but over the next few years, I fully expect color traits, not locality specifics to be the main marketing force in this species, though there will always be a purist market. The present locality craze is in its infancy. The main reason it is so popular is that existing breeders have always kept back the babies that they thought would grow into great adults. The only available market of captive animals was generally bland with a few exceptions. The locality imports let John Q Public get (for the first time) world class colored animals at more affordable prices, even at the expense of the trials and tribulations of establishing wild imports. John Doe will have high yellow lines, Jane Smith will have high blue specialty animals, and Bud big breeder will have a selection of several color strains in the future.


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