Scott Felzer's Garter Snakes, Specializing in Aberrant Garters



Gartersnake 101

Part  of  the  fun  of  Gartersnakes  is  keeping  unusual  types  and  learning about  Genetics and Biology. To help in that effort I offer this list of Gartersnake related terms. I hope it is helpful to you as you enjoy your hobby.

- A -
Aberrant - deviating from the ordinary, normal, expected.
Adaptation, Biological - alteration of structure or function to suit a particular environment.
Albino - an organism with absent or deficient melanin.
Allele - either of the two paired genes affecting an inherited trait.
Alleles, Multiple - in a given population, more than two alternative forms of a gene affecting a single inherited trait.
Allopatric - related populations occupying mutually exclusive but usually adjacent geographical areas.
Amelanistic- containing no melanin
Amphibian - capable of living both in water and on land, typified by frogs, toads, and salamanders.
Amplexus - clasping of female amphibians by males in copulatory embrace.
Anerythristic - without red color.
Anomaly - a deviation from the ordinary, normal, or expected
Aposematic Coloration - warning coloration.
Aquatic - living or growing in water.
Arboreal - living in trees.
Arthropod - a member of a large phylum of invertebrates, characterized by exoskeleton and jointed legs, typified by insects and spiders.
Artificial Selection - selective breeding to perpetuate desirable traits.
Autosomal Mutation - a gene change occurring in any cell other than a sex cell.
Autotomy - self-amputation, typified by tail loss of some lizards when attacked.
Axanthism - absence of yellow color, or absent or deficient xanthophore pigment metabolism.
- B -
Backcrossing - mating of an organism with a parent.
Bicephaly - possessing two heads
Bilateral - occurring on both sides of an organism.
Biological Clock - innate physiological or behavioral rhythms, synchronized with recurrent environmental factors such as time or day.
- C -
Carapace - dorsal portion of shell of turtle.
Carnivorous - meat eating.
Carotenoid - any group of red and yellow pigments, chemically similar to carotene, contained in animal fat and some plants.
Caruncle - horny spine on upper jaw of hatchling turtle, used to split jaw for hatching.
Caudal - pertaining to the tail or posterior end.
Chromosome - nuclear inclusion containing genes arranged in linear sequence.
Chromatophore - pigment cell.
Congenital - present at or before birth, not necessarily inherited.
Crossing Over - exchange of corresponding segments of homologous chromosomes during meiosis, so the resulting gametes will contain chromosomes with information from both parents rather than one or the other.
Cryptic - concealing or camouflaging.
Cutaneous - pertaining to the skin.
- D -
Dendrite - a protoplasmic projection extending from a cell body.
Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) - a molecule containing the genetic information of all living cells. The unit of inheritance. Gene.
Differentiation - progressive changes in cell, tissue, or organ structure and function during development, usually from simple to more complex.
Dihybrid Cross - mating of individuals heterozygous for two separate inherited traits.
Dimorphism - occurrence of two forms, distinct in color or other characteristic, among animals of the same species.
Diploid - refers to cells with pairs of homologous chromosomes (somatic cells).
Diurnal - active during daylight.
Dominant - an allele that can determine the phenotype whether heterozygous or homozygous.
Dopa - 3, 4-dihydroxy-L-phenylalanine, an intermediate chemical in the synthesis of melanin.
Dorsal - the top, back, or uppermost surface of the organism.
- E -
Ectothermic (also poikilothermic or cold-blooded) - possessing no internal means for controlling body temperature.
Embryo - organism in early stages of development, before it is physiologically independent.
Embryogenesis - the development and growth of an embryo.
Endothermic (also homeothermic or warm-blooded) - having ability to maintain constant body temperature in different ambient temperatures.
Erythrophore - red Chromatophore.
Eumelanin - black or brown melanin.
External Fertilization - union of sperm and egg outside the body of either parent.
- F -
F1 - first generation offspring.
F2 - second generation offspring.
Femoral - pertaining to thighs of femur.
Flash Color - bright and conspicuous patch of color on an otherwise drab animal, displayed briefly to distract predators.
- G -
Gamete (also germ cell) - mature haploid egg or sperm.
Gene - unit of inheritance (DNA), carried on chromosomes.
Gene Pool - collectively, all of the alleles of all the genes in a population.
Genetics - study of heredity.
Genotype - genetic makeup of an organism.
Germ Cell (also Gamete) - mature haploid egg or sperm.
Gravid - pregnant.
- H -
Habitat - specific place within range in which an organism lives.
Haploid - having a single set of chromosomes (germ cell or gamete).
Hemoglobin - an iron-containing protein in red blood cells primarily for oxygen transport.
Hemotoxin - substance poisonous to or destructive of vascular system and contents.
Herbivorous - relying on vegetation for food.
Hereditary - capable of being transmitted from generation to generation.
Herpetoculture - breeding and husbandry of reptiles and amphibians.
Herpetology - study of reptiles and amphibians.
Heterozygous - having nonidentical alleles for the trait in question.
Homeothermic (also endothermic or warm-blooded) - having ability to maintain constant body temperature in different ambient temperatures.
Homologous - corresponding in origin, structure, and position.
Homozygous - having identical alleles for the trait in question.
Hybrid - offspring of parents that differ in one or more heritable characters. Also refers to offspring of parents of different species.
Hypomelanistic - containing decreased amount of black and brown melanin.
Hypopigmented - containing decreased amount of pigment.
- I -
Indicator Species - a species that manifests by its presence in its habitat the existence of certain environmental conditions.
Intergrade - an intermediate form exhibiting a combination of the characteristics of two separate subspecies of the same species.
Intermedin - hormone secreted by the intermediate lobe of the pituitary gland, known to control in part the size and activity of some chromatophores.
Internal Fertilization - union of sperm and egg inside the female parent.
Iridophore - iridescent chromatophore that produces color by physical rather than metabolic methods.
- J -
- K -

Keratin - tough protein outermost layer of skin.
Keratinocyte - general term for epidermal cell.
- L -
Lateral Line Organ - series of sense organs along sides of some amphibians, probably for detection of currents, vibrations, and pressure.
Leucistic - white.
Linkage, Genetic - tendency of certain alleles to be inherited together due to the fact that they are located on the same chromosome.
Locus - position of a gene on a chromosome.
- M -
Meiosis - type of cell division in which a diploid cell divides twice, resulting in haploid germ cells.
Melanin - black or brown pigments synthesized from tyrosine.
Melanism - unusual darkening of normal pigmentation due to increased melanin.
Melanocyte - sole pigment cell of warm-blooded animals, the function of which is to synthesize melanin.
Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone (MSH) - secretion of anterior pituitary gland that stimulates synthesis of melanin.
Melanophore - chromatophore of cold-blooded vertebrates that produces melanin.
Melanosynthesis - production of melanin within melanophores or melanocytes.
Metamorphosis - transformation of one distinctive stage in life history to another, as in tadpole to frog.
Microhabitat - small restricted part of the entire range that is utilized by an organism.
Mitosis - cell division with each daughter cell identical to the parental cell.
Monohybrid Cross - breeding experiment in which parents differ in only one genetically determined trait.
Morph - visible form and structure of an organism.
Morphologic - pertaining to form and structure of an organism.
Mutagen - any substance capable of altering genetic information.
Mutation - an abrupt change in the base sequence of DNA, resulting in new genetic information. If the mutation is in a gamete, the new genetic information can be passed to the next generation.
- N -
Natural Selection - differential reproduction and survival of organisms due to environmental forces, resulting in preservation of traits most fitted for survival.
Neoteny - retention of juvenile characteristics by sexually mature individuals.
Neural Crest - dorsal portion of the neural tube (the primitive nervous system) that produces undifferentiated pigment cells and the peripheral nervous system.
Neurotoxin - poisonous substance affecting the nervous system.
Niche - that particular part of the total environment utilized by an organism.
Nocturnal - active by night. Nonallelic genes - not coded for the same trait; not paired.
- O -
Omnivorous - including both plants and animals in diet.
Ontogenetic - development of an individual organism. Changes occurring during postembryonic life are ontogenetic.
Oviparous - reproducing by laying eggs.
- P -
Paedomorphosis - retention of juvenile characteristics by sexually mature individuals.
Parthenogenesis - mode of asexual reproduction, in which embryo develops without fertilization.
Phaeomelanin - red or yellow melanin.
Phenotype - an organism described by its external appearance.
Physiology - science dealing with function of organisms and their parts.
Piebald - spotted or patched, usually in black and white.
Plastron - ventral shell of turtle.
Poikilothermic (also ectothermic or cold-blooded) - having no internal means for controlling body temperature.
Polymorphic - occurrence together of two or more distinct morphological forms of a species.
Postpartum - following birth.
Prepartum - preceding death.
Proteolytic - capable of breaking down protein.
Pteridine - class of chemicals incorporated in xanthophore pigments.
- Q -
- R -

Radio Telemetry - tracking activities of organisms by radio signals.
Recessive Gene - an allele that can determine the phenotype only when in homozygous state.
- S -
Salamander - general term for tailed amphibian.
Sex Chromosome - special sex-determining chromosome.
Sex-linked - genetic traits determined by genes carried on a sex chromosome.
Sexual Dimorphism - gender differences in characteristics.
Siblings - two or more offspring of the same parents.
Somatic Cells - all cells in an organism aside from the germ cells.
Species - group of organisms which interbreed and are reproductively isolated from all other such groups.
Stem Cell - undifferentiated cell.
Subspecies - well-defined geographic or physiologic aggregate of local population which differs from other such subdivisions of the same species.
Sympatric - having overlapping or coinciding ranges.
Systematics - the classification of organisms in a system to indicate natural relationships.
- T -
Taxonomy - scientific naming of organisms and their classification with reference to their precise position in the plant or animal kingdom.
Terrapin - any of a number of fresh water turtles, noted for basking.
Terrestrial - living on ground.
Thermoregulation - in cold-blooded animals, activity associated with external control of body temperature, such as sunning.
Tortoise - common term for some completely terrestrial turtles.
Toxic - poisonous or pertaining to poison.
Tyrosinase - the enzyme essential in synthesis of melanin.
Tyrosinase-negative Albinism - albinism due to absence of tyrosinase.
Tyrosinase-positive Albinism - albinism in animals capable of synthesizing tyrosinase, but unable to synthesize melanin.
Tyrosine - the amino acid precursor of melanin, thyroxine, and adrenalin.
- U -
Ultraviolet - radiation wavelengths just beyond the violet in the visible spectrum.
Unilateral - found only on one side.
- V -
Variant - differing from normal.
Ventral - pertaining to the under or lower surface (venter).
Vertebrate - organism having spinal or vertebral column.
- W -
Wild Type - the phenotype occurring normally or with the greatest frequency in a population.
- X -
Xanthic - yellowish. Xanthophore - pigment cell synthesizing red, yellow, and intermediate Pteridine pigments.
- Y -
- Z -


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