Educating Breeders on Species Reclassification

This is probably just a pet peeve of mine, but I hate it when people don’t know the scientific names of the animals they are producing. The main ones with this issue right now are the rat snakes, specifically the Eastern and Western rat snakes. Their scientific names have changed in recent years, and it seems some that produce them haven’t kept up with this news. This leads to them being posted in different categories and potentially beginners being misguided. Is there anything we could do to educate those breeding these animals, and other animals in similar situations? Also I had no idea what to tag this, so hopefully these tags are fine.


A dm with the new species name and the article covering the new name could work

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That would be a lot of work considering how many there are that aren’t aware of this. That and I don’t want to pester breeders sounding like a know-it-all. Maybe a public newsletter?

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Oh that’d definitely be better, not everyone knows where to look for scientific articles reclassifying species or keeps up with them so a newsletter here would help!

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Taxonomy is not just about publication but also about uptake by community. There are some that do not accept the published changes - and I have to say that some of their arguments for not accepting them are quite valid - and so they stay with the taxonomy that fits for them.


Ok, here’s the deal, rat snake taxonomy stiiiiiinks. It’s all up in the air. It has changed and will continue to change, it depends on how we define species, if the people classifying species follow the lumping or splitting philosophy, etc. I’m a professional in the field and even I stick with Pantherophis spp. in places like Georgia, where intergrade zones are huge and the taxonomy is really not helpful at all.

Also, it’s worth noting that even if the taxonomy is updated on these sites, state laws are not updated as regularly or as often as taxonomy. This is particularly important in states that prohibit the ownership of native reptiles, such as Georgia. For example, when the western tricolored milks were all reclassified as Lampropeltis triangulum and the previous species were downgraded to subspecies, well now technically, according to state law, I can’t keep Nelson’s or Sinaloan milks because they have the same taxonomic status as the eastern milk, which is a completely phenotypically different animal.

The taxonomy for these reptiles is in flux and will probably change again in another decade. Genetic differentiation is still new, we still have poorly defined species definitions for genetic complexes, and until taxonomists decide on that, we have to be cognizant of legal ramifications of taxonomic changes. Taxonomists lately have been adopting name changes without adequate peer review, which sincerely irritates me. One publication comes out and they’re all ready to jump on the “it’s a new species!” bandwagon. We need more studies, more verification, more replication, and more input on what really IS a species before we adopt these types of widespread changes. At least in my personal, soap box opinion.


I can see some people not wanting to accept it, since taxonomy is kinda wibbly wobbly, but I just want to make sure everyone knows the latest news. I did tell a couple of breeders in the past (before the category updates) about most new world rats being reclassified from Elaphe to Pantherophis and they changed their description on their listings. They said they were not aware, so that at least means some have no idea. Especially since some sources on google say they are Elaphe still, since they are old sites that haven’t been updated in a while.

Yeah, it kinda does lol. I am more just worried that by posting Western rats with Eastern rats, people will think similar mutations are the same species and then we have an even bigger problem on our hands as a community. I at least want to try and let people know about the current differences and changes. Some aren’t even aware that most new world rats aren’t Elaphe anymore, so it is at least worth letting them know about the newest changes.

Alternatively, there could just be a newsletter on MM about the category changes. Tell them what goes where (like black rats, Everglades rats, etc.) going in the Eastern category, and Texas rats going in the Western category. Ask them to please do this as to not have species mixups and confusion. They don’t have to accept the changes to the taxonomy, just respect the filters lol.

@ashleyraeanne It sounds like you are halfway there to becoming published. Just cut and paste your comments above, and you can tie it all together over a cuppa.

I’d hit the bookmark!