CALIFORNIA KINGSNAKE (Lampropeltis getula californiae)

Brian Hubbs

There are two basic patterns of cal kings, as well as over seventy (70) different morphs of those two patterns in the wild. About half of the morphs are aberrant and half are variations of typical patterns. The basic pattern types are banded or striped, but there are actually five (5) striped pattern types from five (5) different regions, each with its own set of aberrant morphs. The five (5) striped patterns include the San Diego (Northern Baja, and San Diego, western Riverside, southeastern Orange, and western San Bernardino counties), Newport-Long Beach (Coastal Orange and Los Angeles counties), Nitida (Extreme southern Baja), Eiseni (portions of Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties along the San Joaquin River drainage), and Delta (Delta region of central California).

Each pattern type is unique from all the others and is replicable throughout its range. Where two ranges may overlap, intermediates between those types can be found. For example: where the San Diego and Newport-Long Beach patterns meet there are combination patterns with traits from each pattern on the same snake. Aberrant morphs are replicable wild patterns that deviate from the typical pattern type to which they belong. For example, an aberrant banded morph might have a solid black belly, speckling within the dark bands, a faint pattern, or bands that are jagged and scrambled looking. Variations of typical patterns mostly include different color combinations or width of banding. Aberrant striped pattern morphs include combinations of banding and striping, blotched patterns, a barred pattern, a dashed stripe, dots instead of a stripe, and many others. The aberrant morphs are restricted to the same region (range) where the striped pattern type it belongs to is found. Since each striped pattern type is different from the others, you rarely see similar aberrant morphs within different regions.

Each striped pattern type resides within areas that were historically wet and marshy. This is probably why the striped snakes evolved in those places – to blend in better with grassy, reedy wetland flora. The banded pattern probably infiltrated those areas after a drying period ensued, and the aberrant snakes are combinations between the banded and striped gene flows. Below are a few examples of both typical and aberrant morphs.


All Photos by Brian Hubbs

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