So, to set the scene for those that missed it. A new trait has been discovered in Ball Python genetics in Iowa, US. A designer Python breeder, JD, hatched out a baby Royal python that had something extra to it, something they were yet to identify.

They posted a picture of their newest discovery, “The Pastel Axanthic “Thing””, which went viral – how do you think we heard about it? In fact, we shared the picture at the time too. It became affectionately known as The Stormtrooper.

Little was known at the time about what caused this stunning snake to look like it did. As the breeder, JD Constriction, specialised in black and white morphs, he knew he was looking at something different. He knew that something special had occurred here. A more obvious Pastel Axanthic didn’t have the striking white this snake carried, and contained more grey, which this Stormtrooper didn’t have.

JD’s best guess was that it was either a fluke, a one off that wouldn’t be replicated, or a new gene that he had yet to identify, perhaps something recessive which caused the high contrast black and white colouration in the snake. The snake itself hatched looking like a normal Pastel Axanthic, but over each shed she became more high contrast, with cleaner white colouring, especially its brilliant white head.

If that’s not impressive enough, showing off the brilliant work that independent breeders are doing out there, the real shock came months later, when the first update was realised of our Stormtrooper. She’d gone to the Dark Side.

The same snake appeared to have gained melanin (go

tten darker) throughout its life, resulting in that stark black and white snake becoming barely recognisable. The snake still has its bright white sides, but all the perfect contrast patterns on the top have now bled through to create a dirty charcoal colour all over the top of the snake. Its striking white head is now almost completely black and grey. Although she is still very distinctive, this darkness appears to be blackening the top of the snake, whilst not touching the sides at all.

So this new gene, what is it?

JD is now calling it “Darkness”, or “Dirty”, as the snake literally darken through its life, completely altering the look of the animal. He had found this already with another snake, but hadn’t realised the same gene had made its way into his Stormtrooper. It seems to affect snakes that carry the Pastel and Axanthic genes, when these genes are combined together.

So this breeder, specialising in black and white, now has a snake that can go from white, to black? Very very cool, JD Constriction!