Date of Award:

5-2011

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sciences

Advisor/Chair:

Lee F. Rickords

Abstract

Although the captive reproduction of non-avian reptiles has increased steadily since the 1970’s, a dearth of information exists on successful management practices for large captive populations of these species. The data reported here come from a captive population of ball pythons (Python regius) maintained by a commercial breeding company, The Snake Keeper, Inc. (Spanish Fork, UT). Reproductive data are available for 6,480 eggs from 937 ball python clutches. The data presented suggest that proper management practices should include the use of palpation and/or ultrasound to ensure breeding occurs during the proper time of the female reproductive cycle, and that maintenance of proper humidity during the incubation of eggs is vitally important.

Ball python reproduction traits (clutch size, clutch mass, relative clutch mass, egg mass, hatch rate, egg length, egg width, hatchling mass, healthy offspring per clutch, week laid, and days of incubation) were recorded for the clutches laid during this study. For the 937 clutches, the identity of the dam and sire were known for 862 (92%) and 777 (83%) of the clutches, respectively. A multivariate model that included nine of the 11 traits listed above was compiled. Heritability and genetic and phenotypic correlations were calculated from the multivariate analysis. The trait that showed the most promise for use in artificial selection to increase reproduction rates was clutch size due to considerable genetic variation, high heritability, and favorable genetic correlations with other reproduction traits.

Although large datasets have been published for twinning in avian species, relatively few are available for non-avian reptiles. Reported here are 14 sets of twins produced from 6,480 eggs from 937 ball python clutches. The survival rate for twins during the first 3 months of life in our study was 97%. Interestingly, 11 of the sets of twins were identical in sex and phenotype, and additional genetic data suggested the rate of monozygotic twinning within this captive population of ball pythons was higher than that of dizygotic twinning. Further, using microsatellite analysis we were able to generate data that shows three sets of python twins were genetically identical.

Comments

This work made publicly available electronically on September 1, 2011.

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