The Marble Eye is a new recessive genetic eye mutation in leopard geckos that causes the eye to have a three dimensional look.  It first popped out in our Tremper (albino) sunglow line. Initially it seemed to be  just an eye genetic but it is proving to have some hidden genes that we never thought would be expressed.

It was almost a morph that we let slip away…

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Discovering the Mutation

  In 2006 while feeding some of the geckos left over from the White Plains show in New York, I noticed something a little different about one of the sunglows that hadn’t sold. Its eyes looked redder than normal. After taking a picture and zooming in on the eye I noticed it was like nothing else I had ever seen. The eye looked like what you’d see if you were looking through a kaleidoscope. I checked all the geckos from that breeding group and found two more. I frantically called Alberto Candolini (of A&M Geckos) and told him the news. We figured out who the parents were and that Alberto still owned them.
  
  

 2007 – Proving Out the New Genetic

  After finding this needle in a hay stack the next step was to prove out what it was. Unfortunately all of the geckos expressing the trait were female. But we did have the father and the two females that were in the group that they had hatched from. So in 2007 we bred the “father” to the daughters that were expressing the gene. One female didn’t breed her first year. The other two gave me duds for the first two clutches and started to get me nervous. Finally I started to get good eggs out of them. I hatched out one male and five females from the two females expressing the trait. None of them had any unusual eye pigment.  The two females that were the “mothers” when bred to the “father” didn’t give me a single eye pigmented gecko. At this point I was thinking “well it would have been cool to make more”, but I just didn’t think it was going to happen.

 2008 – One More Year

 With the start of the 2008 season, I knew I was going to give it one more year to see what I could do with this project. I had the three original females that were expressing the eye pigment and I had 1.5 (one male, five females) of what I was calling “hets”. I was counting on it being a random genetic mutation that happened or somehow the “father” of the unusual eye pigment maybe just wasn’t the dad. So I bred the son “het” to the females that were expressing the trait and to the females that I was calling “hets”.  I got eggs, eggs hatched, and poof, more marble eyed babies. So at this point I knew I could reproduce it and I knew it was acting recessive.

 Now to prove it against the most famous eye pigmentation out there: the Eclipse gene.

Baby Marble Eye 

  

2009 – Testing

 In order to prove that this was a trait that could be reproduced, I knew that I had to do three things.  One, make sure that this was not related to the Eclipse gene at all. Two, out-cross for the benefit of the gene. There were no signs of anything negative but I didn’t want the gene pool to get too small. The third thing was to get the Tremper albino gene out of them so I could cross them to the other strains of albino.
  
 The first was easy:  Cross the Marble Eye to Eclipse and see what happens. I did this in two ways.   I bred the original females to a Mack raptor. I also bred the male Marble Eye to some eclipse females. More than forty babies hatched and there were no eye pigmented geckos at all. At that point I knew there was no Eclipse gene at work in producing marble eyed geckos.
  
 Steps two and three were easy as well. All I would have to do was to breed the Marble Eye to some subspecies. I chose the E. montanus for my out-crossing. By using these F1 geckos I could make sure that they were not related to any other geckos out there and I could start cleaning the Tremper gene out of them.
  
 Another thing that I noticed about this new mutation was that the amount of marbling was very random. Some had tons of eye pigment and others very little. I’m sure there are even geckos that are not showing any eye pigment that for breeding purposes could be considered marble eyed individuals. So in that aspect I think that it works like the eclipse gene in that you can’t control the amount of eye pigmentation.
 
 Extreme Marbling
 
 
 Light Marbling

2010 – What the ….

The cross that was made between the Marble Eye and the E. montanus proved to be something special. At first I didn’t notice anything different about the babies. Then one day one caught my eye. Its head was grey; I hadn’t ever seen anything like it. I took some pictures and looked more closely at the eyes and the eyes were different as well. They had little black speckles all over them.  This totally had me blown away because how could it have weird eyes when it was an out-crossed baby? It shouldn’t have weird eyes. This is where this gecko’s legend started to grow. As the weeks went on I watched this gecko very closely. The head got darker and darker. At one point it looked black. Then all of a sudden the head started to get lighter and the body started to get the grey color. It started as a stripe down the back and it started to come up the sides. At the time of writing this the gecko by far is the weirdest looking gecko I have ever seen.

Here are some progression pictures:

 
 When it was first noticed

 
 Eye shot
 
 
 A few weeks later.

 
 Here is when the dark coloring came in on the body

  Now next to a tang.

  
 I did get to cross (marble eye x E. montanus) x (marble eye x E. montanus). This cross has given me some of the weirdest looking geckos. A lot of them have a darker appearance; some even have large dark spots. Whatever this cross did it is amazing.
 
 Non Albino Marble eye

What Will the Future Hold for this New Genetic?

  
 I believe that there is still more to learn about this genetic. There are things about it that when you think you have it figured out it throws you a curve ball and shows you it can do something else. There are many crosses being done at this time with the Marble Eye. Some thing are still under wraps. I can’t wait to see what the Marble Eye will do in 2011.

Matt BaronakVisit Website

Matt Baronak was born in Pennsylvania in 1981, and grew up catching crawfish and tadpoles in the back yard. By the age of 14 he was breeding African cichlids in his bedroom. At 17 he started keeping and breeding reptiles. In 2003 he sold off his reptile collection and enlisted in the Army as a veterinary technician. While in the army he got the reptile bug again and bought a pair of leopard geckos. From that pair the collection grew to over 40 adults. In March of 2006 Matt lost all but five of his beloved leopard geckos in a house fire. At that point he knew it was stop or go all in. He became partners with Alberto Cadolini of A&M Gecko in 2006 and grew the collection back up. In 2007 he left the army, having served his 4 years with an honorable discharge, to pursue Gecko breeding full time. 2008 was a big year for the creation of new combination morphs. He coined new names such as Nova, Dreamsickle, and Black Hole. In 2009 Matt Introduced the Typhoon (Rainwater Eclipse) and its combinations. Also in 2009 Matt took over all breeding and day to day operations of A&M geckos. Contrary to rumors, Matt and Alberto didn’t break up as partners; Alberto was just no longer able to work with the geckos due to severe allergies. In 2010, due to the economy and Matt starting college, breeding was scaled back but not stopped. Major projects are the W/Y and all of their combinations and the Marble Eye project. As well as scaling back on the leopard gecko side of the collection, Matt is starting to work with different species including fat tails, cave geckos, some Australian species and few others from around the world. Matt is going to school full time at Penn State University for animal science. He also plays roller hockey for Penn State and helped lead them to the school's first national championship in the sport. Matt also works as a vet tech part time at a local animal hospital.

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