Morph Isolation

Found something weird or interesting in a culture?

I first want to clarify a little bit of terminology. Usually when someone posts a picture of something bizarre, the first few comments include “isolate it”. When someone says this, it’s not physical separation from the colony they are referring to, they are talking about isolating the gene, in that, all individuals and offspring from a culture display that gene. The first step of this process may or may not be physically isolating the odd ball from the colony. We will get into that a bit later....

This process takes work and depending on the sexes of the individuals found cans take 1-3 years to fully isolate. So you need to ask yourself if it’s worth it. Is the morph different enough from what’s already in the hobby to warrant that dedication of time?

The second thing to do is consider that some oddballs are female linked traits and even can be environmentally caused, so isolation could be complicated or impossible to replicate, but that shouldn’t stop you, as those outcomes are even more interesting sometimes.

The next step is sexing your oddballs. Ideally you’ll find at least a pair, then isolation is simple. Set them up in their own culture and let them do their thing. Isopods do retain genetic material, so it may take a few clutches to flush that out. Be patient.

If you only have one, and it’s a male, pair him up with a few virgin females, and breed the young back together. This back cross should produce the anomaly if it’s a simple recessive.

If it’s just a female, we typically leave her in the culture and pull her when she’s gravid. Then we backcross the young.

While most genetic morphs turn out to be simple recessive, there are some great examples of sex linked traits such as calico in scaber, and albino like morphs in some armadillidium. We’ve also recently seen a co- dominant morph scaber. So don’t give up if you don’t get the expected results, you might be on to something interesting.

After you have about 20 or so of the anomaly, THEN pick a name. Some genes have a wide range of expression, such as koi, which randomly turns off and on pigments in the isopods. Wait and see the range, as it sucks when you name something after the first individual and it doesn’t fit the entirety of the gene. Also you may just have an extreme of a gene already established. A good example of this is dalmatian scaber with throw out a half grey individual now and again. When isolated, they always produce normal dalmatians. It’s just an extreme of the genes expression.

Something else to take in to account is that some genetic traits that cause these anomalies have negative effects on the animals health, making culturing/isolation more intensive. A good example of this is dalmatian rathkii, which can be seen in Orin’s book. Even though the expression in rathkii was more visually pleasing than in scaber, the rathkii line was harder to maintain and ended up just phasing out of the hobby.

When buying a new morph, make sure to ask the right questions:
1. How long has it been isolated?
2. Do you have pictures of the colony? (Make sure they all look similar)
3. How does the gene work?

If the answers sound fishy, post on a message board or ask a reputable breeder.