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From notes supplied through correspondence between Frank Roberts & Graham Seal.

Pre Amble

If you have visited Kingsnake.com during the last few months, you might have already seen the post by Frank Roberts where his Leucistic Texas Ratsnake triple clutched. We contacted Frank about this rare occurrence and he kindly agreed to send us some notes and photo's to share with our membership.
Brief History of the Snakes

Frank acquired the snake from his best friend John Rodriguez in February 2008. John had raised the Leucistic pair from hatchlings and successfully bred them for the first time with no brumation period the previous year. They were both full sized adults and 3 years old. The female laid a full clutch of fertile eggs with John, despite not ever being brumated. The pair have never been brumated, and continue to feed throughout the winter months, although a slight reduction in appetite has been noted.

The male Orange Ratsnake was brumated however for 3 months at 50F.

FIRST CLUTCH

Knowing the history of the snakes, Frank felt confident to start breeding trials shortly after acquiring the snakes.
On the 26th February the Leucistic pair was introduced to one another and copulation was witnessed almost immediately. The pair were housed together overnight and a second copulation was witnessed the next day also.

On the 29th February the snakes were separated for feeding, the female ate 2 medium rats and the male ate 1 medium rat and 3 rat crawlers.

Another introduction on the 3rd March resulted in copulation, noted at 12.59am and again on the 4th at 2.10am.

Frank tells us that on the 5th March he thought that the female was ovulating due to a swelling similar to that noted for boids.

Copulation from an introduction on the 6th March at 12.59am was witnessed within an hour of introduction and the pair separated an hour afterwards at 2.14am. The next day another introduction was tried which resulted in no sexual activity, they were then separated and fed, the female ate a medium rat but refused a second. The male ate a medium mouse.

After a digestion period the pair were introduced again on the 10th March at 5.29pm. The male was keen to copulate but the female blatantly refused any advances made by him. Frank assumed this to mean that the female was gravid. A further introduction a few days later confirmed his thoughts, as again the female was unresponsive to the male, and Frank ended his breeding trials.

On the 16th March the female was noted to being going into slough by a slight opaqueness seen on her venter, the next day it was obvious as her eyes were beginning to milk over and by the 19th she was deep in the blue, after four days the eyes cleared and on the 26th March edcysis was completed.
At this point a laying box was provided for the female, almost immediately she entered the box, exploring it and pushing the moss around. She continued to be restless for the next four days, visiting the moss box and cruising her vivarium. Finally settling on the 1st April when she deposited 9 eggs over a two hour period between 10 & 11.59pm

The eggs were transferred to a box containing course vermiculite and also a mass of airy moistened sphagnum moss packed to the top of a shoebox. They were set on a shelf in his snake room where the temperature fluctuated between 76-86F. Frank tells us that he incubates all his colubrid eggs at room temperature (a luxury those in warmer climates have). The first eggs began to pip on the 1st June after 61 days incubation. At this point Frank removes the layer of sphagnum moss so he can better observe the eggs hatching. The eggs swelled during incubation and he tells us that they are 2.5 times larger than when they were first laid, fully hydrated eggs he has noted hatch out larger and fit neonates.



SECOND CLUTCH

On the 2nd April Frank introduced his Orange Ratsnake to the female Leucistic, although the male was keen as was evident by his advances to the female, he separated the pair before any copulation could occur as he wanted to feed the female. She avidly ate a medium rat. Two days later the male Orange Ratsnake again was introduced to the female but separated without any copulations witnessed. On the 7th April the female consumed two medium rats and on the 8th was paired with the male Orange, where copulation was witnessed on three separate occasions that day. The female was fed 1 medium rat on the 10th and a further introduction occurred on the 12th, although Frank is uncertain whether copulation took place as he didn't watch on this occasion, although he did note copulatory behaviour.

On the 17th April the female began her sloughing cycle evident by opaque eyes, which didn't clear for 14 days, she did however slough the next day on the 2nd May.

As this was the first slough after the first clutch, Frank wasn't certain whether this would be her prelaying slough although she did look gravid. He introduced the male Orange again but no copulation took place. A moss box was added to the female's enclosure, as he now was pretty sure that the female would deposit a clutch in six days time. Sure enough on the 8th May, the female laid a large clutch of 15 eggs,
although only 9 of these appeared to be fertile. Frank opened what he thought to be the infertile eggs and was very surprised to find that three of them contained blood. He commented that this was a huge mistake on his part, and in so doing so had inadvertently killed them, "An amateur mistake" he continued "and from now on I will incubate all eggs regardless of what I think I know".

As with the first clutch the eggs were incubated in course grade vermiculite with a layer of moist sphagnum moss on top on a shelf in his snake room.

The female accepted 1 large rat and 4 rat pups on the 9th May, the male Orange Ratsnake also ate his first meal of the year which consisted of 3 rat pups, all previous food had been rejected prior to this since being brought out of brumation, his last meal being in November 2007. He lost very little weight during his fasting period.

The female continued to feed with gusto, eating 6 rat pups on the 18th, a large rat on the 21st & 24th.

On the 7th July the second clutch started to hatch. Frank was amazed as the first two hatchlings that emerged where from eggs that he had initially marked as infertile proving him wrong as they contained healthy normal sized neonates, he says emphasizing the fact that when in doubt wait it out
 
 
 
The first egg had a very black nipple deformity and burst on the 4th July and he cut a window to find a live neonate inside the egg he told us.
 
 
The second egg that he had initially marked as bad was completely black with a crazed appearance to the shell as can be seen in the photo below, with the emerged hatchling in the second photo

10 of the 12 eggs that were laid went on to hatch, producing all normal phenotype hatchlings that are het for leucism.

THIRD CLUTCH

On the 5th June the females eyes milked over, clearing 7 days later, she sloughed 3 days after this. On the 17th June Frank was observing the female and thought that she looked gravid, even though she had not been with a male since her second clutch. By the 20th June she had a distinct oval look to her. It was at this point that he decided to give her a laying box as a precautionary measure. His suspicions about her being gravid with a third clutch were confirmed when a day later on the evening of the 21st June she began laying. The following morning a clutch of 12 eggs were removed from the laying box, 9 of which appear fertile, all 12 eggs however were transferred to an incubation box, set up as described for in the first and second clutch account


3 towards back look to be infertile but one has good area and is attached to that other egg

Apart from the fact that three clutches from one female in a season is a little unusual, Frank tells us he was quite excited at the prospect of polypaternity with this clutch, as the female has obviously stored sperm as she was not reintroduced to either male after her second clutch, so there was three possibilities for the clutch. First they could have been sired by the Orange male, secondly by the Leucistic or thirdly both hets and leucistic could hatch from this clutch indicating polypaternity and the female using stored sperm from both the Orange and Leucistic males.

The first eggs started to pip on the 15th August and contained normal looking hatchlings. The rest of the clutch went on to hatch producing 9 healthy hatchlings all of which were normal looking het for leucism confirming that the Orange male was the father and the female had used sperm stored from the second breeding.
 

 

 

  1st Clutch 2nd Clutch 3rd Clutch
Male Leucistic Orange  
Copulation 26th Feb – 6th March 8th April – 12th None
Pre Laying Slough 29th March 2nd may 2nd may
Days Slough to Laying 6 Days 6 Days 6 Days
Gestation 32 Days 31-32 Days Undetermined
Date Laid 1st April 8th May 21st June
Days between Clutches - 38 Days 43 Days
No. Eggs 9 15 12
Date Hatching 1st June 7th July 15th August
Days Incubation 61 Days 60 Days 55 Days
No Hatchlings 9 10 ?



Republished from October 2008 Ratsnakes Digest

This site has information on the following genera of Ratsnakes ... Spilotes, Spalerosophis, Ptyas, Zamenis, Elaphe, Rhinechis, Senticolis, Pseudelaphe, Pantherophis, Bogertophis, Orthriophis, Gonyosoma, Oreocryptophis, Oocatochus, Euprepiophis, Coelognathus, Archelaphe