Garter snakes are over 30 species that all belong to the genus Thamnophis. Each species has a different unique look that sets it apart.
Some species also have subspecies and localities that sport a different appearance.
This article will be going over unique colors that have been selectively bred in captive garter snakes. These are called morphs and you can find a number in the commonly kept garter snakes.
Calvinism is the lack of melanin. This causes a snake that is yellow or lavender in coloration. You can find albino examples of a number of garter snakes including checkered garter snakes and plains garter snakes.
Albinism is a recessive gene, which means that a snake needs two copies of the gene to be a visual albino.
If you see a normal-looking snake that is listed as het for albino, this means that the snake has one copy of the albino gene so it may pass the trait to its offspring.
There are two types of albinism; T+ and T-. This refers to whether the snake possesses the enzyme that allows for the production of melanin.
These strains are not compatible even if the two snakes are the same species. Breeding two T- and T+ visual albino garter snakes together will produce normal-looking offspring that carry the genes for both strains of albino.
Melanism is the opposite of albinism. Snakes that are melanistic will be dark brown or black. They have a much darker base color.
They may also have reduced or invisible stripes. This is because the stripes may match the base color of the snake. Most of these snakes will have a heavy black.
This is found in multiple species since most garter snakes have some black in their natural coloration.
This particular morph is normally listed as anery.
These snakes lack red pigment. In species like the plains garter snake, this results in a darker appearance and less obvious stripes.
They can also have more intense whites since the red pigment isn’t present. This can be found in many snakes that have red in their wild coloration. This is another recessive gene.
Snow is a combination morph. If a snake has the anery and albino genes, this will combine and produce a snake with a bold white coloration and pink eyes.
This is rare since it requires two separate recessive traits to appear in one snake.
It can be found in plains garter snakes and may be found in any species that has both morphs as a possibility.
Axanthic snakes can be found in many species of snakes since it is a lack of yellow pigment. Any garter snake that has yellow pigment can show this trait visually.
Most axanthic snakes have a strong black and white look. In plains garter snakes, there are a number of strains of axanthic that produce animals that have unique looks.
This includes showing more blue or red and blue. This can be combined with other morphs to make unique looks.
Pastel is one of three known morphs in the checkered garter snake along with albino and granite. Pastel checkered garter snakes tend to have a strong yellow color but they may be peach or tan.
This gene is co-dominant. Snakes that carry one copy have the typical pastel look, while two copies produce the super form with more intense coloration.
Granite is the final known morph for the checkered garter snake. These Snakes tend to have a gray tone with the black checkers that the species is named for.
This gene can combine with albino to create some beautiful snakes. A similar morph can also be found in the Eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis).
Many garter snakes that have blue as part of their natural coloration have been selectively bred for brighter blue pigment.
The California red-sided garter snake has a morph known as neon blue. Some other morphs can cause an increase in visible blue pigment.
This term refers to snakes that have more red pigment compared to other snakes.
Reds will be more intense and you may see more orange.
They also tend to have a brown or tan base color depending on the exact species and any other color genes the snake has.
10. High Red
This morph is the name for snakes with higher levels of red or orange pigment.
These snakes tend to have a bright red or orange appearance. It can be found in Eastern garter snakes and in plains garter snakes. In Eastern garter snakes, it may be referred to as flame or high red.
This gene can be combined with others to create a unique look such as a high red albino. This is a more intense selection for red than erythristic.
Pied is a unique pattern where a garter snake has white patches. The intensity of the white and how many patches there are depends on the snake. It is currently known in the Eastern garter snake after a pied garter snake was caught in the wild.
They are currently rare and it is unknown if the gene will combine with others to create unique morphs as a similar gene does in other snakes like the ball python.
Garter snakes come in a number of unique morphs.
Not only are there plenty of unique appearances in wild populations, but you can buy selectively bred garter snakes with unique colors and patterns.
Interested in keeping a garter snake? My complete care guide for garter snakes will tell you all you need to know to setup the right enclosure, feed the right way, manage shedding and more.
Please list your favorite morph in the comments below or bring up ones we missed. If you have any questions, please leave them below as well.