The Kingspin Ball Python Morph
The ball python or python regius, very popular with herpetoculturists of all experience levels¸ began with a single wild type, the so-called “Normal.” However, thanks to the efforts of breeders everywhere, ball pythons are now available in well over 100 color and pattern combinations, called “morphs,” with descriptive names like axanthic, tiger, spider, lesser platinum, pinstriped, and so on.
For a particular combination to be considered a morph, says our resident reptile expert Pitlair, it must look distinctly different from the Normal type. That distinctly different combination must be capable of being passed Morphfrom generation to generation, and is otherwise known as an inheritable trait.
Out of this dizzying array of genetic combinations comes the Kingspin morph. Known as a “three-gene snake,” the Kingspin comes from the combination of the Spider morph, a basic dominant morph which was first introduced in 1999 and is best known for its web-like pattern of markings, and the Kingpin (not to be confused with the Kingspin) morph. The Kingpin morph, in turn, is a combination of the Pinstripe and Lesser morphs, with the former contributing its signature pinstripe markings, and the latter adding its light color and blushing.
STONE COLD STUNNER
The Kingspin ball python itself is a striking animal, usually pale with thin spider web dorsal stripes. Pitlair says, “Some hobbyists or collectors keep them because of how they look. Others keep them to breed with other morphs to hopefully create something even more unique and beautiful.” So what’s the spin on the name? “The first person to combine the lesser morph and the pinstripe morph names his new morph ‘kingpin’, and the first person to combine the spider morph with the pinstripe morph named his combination ‘spinner’,” Pitlair explains. “This is where we get the name ‘kingspin’.”
Kingspin ball pythons, like other ball pythons, can live from 15 to 20 years in captivity as long as they’re properly cared for. Some even live 30 years or more. The record age for a ball python is more than 40 years!
Ball pythons are among the smallest of all pythons. Hatchlings are about 10 inches in length. Male ball pythons are typically smaller than females, with the former reaching 2-3 feet in adulthood, while females grow up to 3-5 feet long.
First found in Africa, ball pythons tend to stay in wooded areas, grasslands, and the savannah. They move around from place to place in search for food, staying mostly on the ground but also climbing up trees or even entering the water from time to time. They’ve since spread all over the world thanks to the pet trade that has grown up around these popular snakes.
CARE FOR A (KING) SPIN?
Captive-born and bred ball pythons are easier to care for than wild pythons, are less finicky eaters, and have a higher tolerance for being handled. They are also usually parasite-free and well-started.
“Ball pythons are some of the most docile pythons,” says Pitlair, “and generally they don’t bite, and might simply curl itself up tightly into a ball when frightened or when it simply doesn’t want to be held. Some may be flighty at first when being picked up, but with regular handling, many pythons simply get used to being held.”
So what does Pitlair feed his kingspin? “Just rodents,” he says. “I prefer to feed it fresh, pre-killed prey, but only because I don’t keep frozen ones. Ideally it’s best to offer dead prey if your snake will take them, because this prevents the rodents from biting the snake back.”
But what about insects? “This is the first time I’ve heard of this,” he replies incredulously. “I would never try feeding insects to my ball python!”
SPOTLIGHT TROPICAL HUT: HOUSING YOUR KINGSPIN
Because the Philippines is a tropical country, it is very easy to keep ball pythons like the Kingspin. Pitlair explains, “Unless you live in a high altitude place like Baguio where it’s colder and drier, ball pythons should be able to tolerate the changes in weather and temperature. Just take appropriate measures in case of extreme temperature spikes or drops.”
Kingspins, like all ball pythons, are relatively clean animals and can live in most substrates or beddings. “I personally use unprinted newspaper paper,” says Pitlair. He cautions against using cedar shavings as bedding for ball pythons, however, as the volatile oils from the cedar wood can cause skin, respiratory, and reproductive system can cause damage to your snake.
“I house my ball pythons in underbed plastic tubs, mostly because I keep so many. It’s more practical to keep them in, since ball pythons mostly need sufficient floor space. Because they are ground animals, giving them a taller enclosure provides little added benefits. I house mine in a 17” x 32” x 6” plastic container; something a little smaller or bigger is fine too.”
HANDLE WITH CARE
Although kingspins, like all ball pythons, are among the most docile snakes you can keep, there is always a possibility of being bitten. “It’s no different from being bitten by a dog or cat,” says Pitlair. “It’s unlikely, but there’s always the possibility. It’s never a good idea to disturb an eating dog, and it’s not a good idea to pick up your snake without washing your hands after handling a mouse. With the scent of mouse lingering on your hands, the snake would simply be responding to its innate instinct to feed, thinking your hand is a mouse.”
He recommends always washing your hands after handling your snake’s food, and picking your snake up from behind. “Don’t handle right after feeding,” he warns. “The feeding mode in them is still very high at that point.”
This appeared in Animal Scene’s September 2016 issue.