Pet Week: Colorful Leopard Geckos

When I ask you which pets are the most colorful, the odds are high that you’re going to either tell me fish or birds, right? You’re not wrong, certainly, but I bet most of you don’t think of reptiles at all. They’re all brown and grays, aren’t they? If they’re meant to camouflage themselves in their environments they have to be drab and unassuming in order to survive, right? Well, not entirely. Take a look:

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http://www.animaniacs.co.za

Pretty, isn’t it? The above is what’s called a Firewater morph leopard gecko. Morphs in reptiles are different colorations that have been hand-picked in order to achieve a certain color palate, seen here in the brilliant oranges and yellow. These colors are bred into the gecko through generations of specific and planned breeding. Wild leopard geckos are originally a dim yellow with whites, browns, and black intermixed in, but breeders have been able to breed leopard geckos that are pure white, solid black, light pink, brilliant yellow, and a wide variety of colors in between. This is a wild colored leopard gecko, to give you an idea of how far the changes have come:

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Wild Morph

It’s pretty crazy how varied the colors are, isn’t it? A quick google search of leopard gecko morphs will reveal that there’s an insane amount of variation, and almost all of the morphs are bright and beautiful. How does this come to be, however? How do you take a leopard gecko, like above, very pretty but vastly different than the firewater, and create such a wide variety of colors? Well, the first leopard gecko morph to emerge (aside from wild coloration, of course) might be an easy one to guess: the albino. A quick look at the albino might help show how the bright colors of the Firewater, and other brilliant leopard gecko morphs, came to be.

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Albino Leopard Gecko

Does that help a bit? If not, let me break it down a bit further.

There are two ways to change the way a leopard gecko looks, either through genetics or through selective breeding. Albinism in leopard geckos removes the black banding that gives leopard geckos their name and therefore allows the brighter yellows and orange to shine through. This is a genetic mutation. From here, the breeder utilizes selective breeding, choosing the babies who have the brightest yellow and the most brilliant oranges to breed. A bright yellow leopard gecko male and a bright yellow leopard gecko female will produce, guess, a handful of bright yellow babies.

In the meantime, the breeder is crossing their fingers and hoping that they’ll discover a morph or a mutation will occur and they’ll be able to genetically pass on these changes to new hatchlings. The sheer amount of baby leopard geckos being born means that, eventually, those mutations will occur and a new morph will begin. Have a look at one of the newest leopard gecko morphs, the black pearl:

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It’s super different from the firewater, but it came to be in the same way. Breeders have been hand choosing the best baby geckos to breed in order to enhance the natural colorations that occur in the wild, as well as hoping that a new color mutation will reveal itself in order to further enhance the color differences. Leopard geckos are one of the most bred reptiles in the world and they make not only easy pets but beautiful ones as well.

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