“A morph is typically a desirable, reproducible color or pattern mutation,” said John Mack, owner of Reptiles by Mack. “Examples of this include albinism, striping, eye color and other desirable traits.”
“Morphs are exciting,” said Mack. “Most of these animals are extremely vibrant and unique. By combining color and pattern morphs, the potential variety seems to be almost endless in some species.”
Different reptile and amphibian species have different available morphs. Some species even have dozens or hundreds of morphs. Species with great numbers of morphs include corn snakes, ball pythons and leopard geckos. Species with fewer morphs include rosy boas, red-eyed tree frogs, red-eared sliders and rainbow boas.
With very few exceptions, morphs are captive-bred animals. Reptile breeders normally cross the parents to deliberately create offspring with the desired genetic traits. Sometimes, breeders will cross various morphs just to see what the resulting offspring will look like and hopefully to create something beautiful that hobbyists will want.
For the last few years, the multitude of ball python morphs have garnered a lot of attention and occasionally some astounding prices.
“Leopard gecko and ball python morphs sell extremely well at both of our stores,” said Sean Poling, reptile media specialist at Pinellas County Reptiles, a reptile specialty store with two Florida locations. Just in ball pythons, “we carry pastel, albino, spider, lesser, Mojave, pied, bumble bee as well as other morphs,” said Poling.
Poling is a breeder himself and that may help Pinellas County Reptiles carry the more desirable morphs.
“I’m an enthusiast and breed many different morphs,” he said. “Some of mine are displayed in the shop from time to time, not only to show customers different morphs but we’ve introduced pairings a the shop for breeding.”
A stumbling block to retailers carrying some of the most desirable reptile morphs is the price.
“Some morphs can be more expensive but our shop carries a high demand for animals that other stores don’t carry,” said Poling. “I’ve brought in some of my higher end morphs but when it’s all said and done, it’s generally easier to sell 50 balls at $100 than one ball at $5000.”
Even given the higher price for these herps, it may be worth it to stock a few. One of the reasons to stock some of the higher end morphs is to attract the serious hobbyist.
“While the standard color forms are a great option for any keeper (and are often the first purchase for beginner herp keepers), different morphs are going to attract those who have been in the hobby for longer,” said Mike Griffith, marketing specialist at fish and reptile supplier, Segrest Farms. “These hobbyists can turn into fantastic customers as they are always needing replacement supplies. Carrying morphs that interest this group can get them in your door, regardless of whether or not they may buy that specific animal. Additionally, many of the large chain superstores regularly carry standard forms of a number of reptiles, so offering different morphs can help set your store apart and give you a competitive edge.”
“Also, don’t be afraid to carry a few of the more exciting, unusual morphs,” said Griffith. “Even if they aren’t great sellers, their presence can help get reptile enthusiasts through your doors, where they might buy something else.”
John Mack agrees that morphs attract reptile hobbyists to a store.
“Pet retailers should look to stock a variety of morphs in all of the basic pet reptiles,” he said. “There are too many to list separately, but they should aim to have a nice variety of leopard geckos, bearded dragons, corn snakes, king snakes and specialty ball pythons. Here are a few examples of each: Mack snow leopard gecko, albino corn snake, snow corn snake, albino striped California king snake, lemon blast ball python and banana ball python.”
“Morphs are becoming more and more popular and the variety is exploding,” said Mack. “Best of all, with larger production they are now becoming more affordable for all.”
So look for more and more morphs to become available and for the prices of many morphs to drop.