Lilly White Project

THE STORY OF THE ‘LILLY WHITE’ CRESTED GECKO UPDATED 19TH DEC 2016

In late 2010, we randomly hatched out an incredible gecko – a pinstripe-looking animal but with stunning white/cream colouring. It was completely different to anything we had hatched before, or had seen elsewhere and was obviously going to be a keeper.

As luck would have it, our little ‘Lilly White’ baby turned out to be a male. In 2012, we bred him to three young virgin adult females and soon we were in possession of several pearly white eggs.

Fast forward a couple of months and the very first egg to hatch was a replica of the father, suggesting the trait was genetic. The second egg that hatched was normal looking as were the third, and the fourth. Then hatched another Lilly White.

Over the course of a few months it became clear that around half of the offspring were Lilly Whites and the remainder were normal looking harlequins. It seemed reasonable to assume that we were dealing with a dominant/co-dominant trait, with the Lilly White being the co-dom form. The obvious aim now was to breed Lilly White x Lilly White to see if there is a dominant or ‘super’ form that would exaggerate or alter the pattern and colour as is routinely seen in ball pythons.

In 2014, we found out the answer………. and the answer is yes and no. Yes in that the ‘super’ form is a uniform white leucistic gecko but no in that sadly the leucistic offspring do not seem viable and either don’t hatch or die shortly afterwards. This is a known phenomenon in some types of leucistic morphs in other reptiles. We have tried with different geckos with the same end result so far. As we have not yet hatched a viable leucistic crested gecko, we have not given a name to this ‘super’ form.

Nevertheless, the Lilly White is an incredible looking animal in its own right and is full of possibilities; it seems that the ‘normal’ looking gecko you breed the Lilly White into, has a massive influence on the appearance of the resulting Lilly White offspring.

A common question we get from people is what sort of gecko is it best to breed a Lilly White with. Not an easy answer to give. Although you can set your clock by the incidence of Lilly Whites produced, because the whole thing is underpinned by the ‘chaos’ that is crested gecko genetics, predicting the outcome from any particular pairing is tricky.

When bred to harlequins you get a real variety, and even to a ‘normal’, (yellow/brown/orange) harlequin you can and do get clean white or cream offspring. Extreme harlequins and tricolours have tended to give a bit more injection of colour in the flanks. Pinstripes can give even cleaner lines with little patterning, but not in every case.

The colour red has been pretty reliable to replicate. So a red-ish Lilly White bred to a normal Red Harlequin for example, almost always results in high red Lilly White offspring.

Breeding into Super Dalmatians has possibly been the biggest surprise, with mostly beautiful orange and cream (and not very spotty) offspring produced. As stunning as they are, to the casual observer, these would not be recognisable as Lilly Whites, but we have since proved them to be so.

Other than the Lilly Whites, we don’t specialise in high white ‘normal’ crested geckos, but have a male now that is being bred to female Lilly Whites. The majority of offspring look like they will be high white Lilly Whites but we have a couple that have popped out that are super dark with white or cream highlights – almost the reverse of what we expected.

So although most Lilly Whites will look textbook types, there can and will be some weird and very wonderful varieties produced. Perhaps new names will appear for the different varieties in the future……

You can see some of the variety achieved so far on our gallery page http://www.lillyexotics.co.uk/gallery. In the future when we, and more to the point other gecko breeders get to mix this morph further into different lines, we are sure there will be some absolutely crazy geckos produced, and someone, somewhere will take this morph to a new level.

Regarding the look of babies, when you hatch out a Lilly White, it is usually completely obvious, especially if it is a textbook looking one. Sometimes you get one, and you think ‘is it or isn’t it?’ Of all the one’s we’ve had doubts about upon hatching, it has been clear a couple of months later that they are indeed Lilly Whites.

On the other hand, we have been caught out a couple of times where we put babies aside thinking they are ‘normals’, only to find otherwise as they grow. Our recommendation is to keep all babies for a few months to be sure.

There are a couple of other potential traits with this morph we will mention. Shortly into the project, we hatched out a baby that had a slight neurological issue in that his head would clearly tilt to one side. We had seen this once or twice in the past with normal geckos and didn’t know whether it was a random thing or a manifestation of this morph.

We kept an eye on him and he grew and acted perfectly well otherwise. Some time after, we hatched another doing the same thing. From this point onwards we temporarily ceased any more breeding of this morph in case this proved to be a recurring serious problem. We simply didn’t want to get into the issues such as those associated with the early Enigma Leopard Geckos, Spider Ball Pythons and some Jaguar Carpet Pythons.

Thankfully, it seems that this is a rare side effect to this morph, which is apparent at the point of hatching rather than developing later in life. We have a number of Lilly White adults ranging from 18 months to 6 years of age, and not one of them has developed this issue if it wasn’t present at hatching. To date, the proportion of geckos produced displaying this trait has been approximately 5%.

We have recently made some observations that make us believe that the frequency and severity of this neurological trait is fundamentally linked to incubation temperature within Lilly Whites.

We are conducting a series of incubation experiments to back up our recent observations, but our recommendation at the moment is the cooler the better (68 -72F), at least in the first few weeks of incubation. This has been our incubation regime for the main part over the last couple of years.

We feel that high temperatures (low - high 80s) in the first 4 weeks of incubation is potentially a trigger and that cooler incubation temperatures will keep a lid on this issue or possibly even improve it.

Whilst we are fully confident in the fact that the Lilly White is a true genetic morph, we are open and aware of the fact that there are similar but slightly different looking animals in other collections. As no one else has to our knowledge proved that their examples are showing the same genetic outcome, we can only conclude that these geckos are either beautiful but simply line bred animals or yet to be proven out by their keepers.

In conclusion, we believe that the Lilly White is one of the very few genuine genetic morphs cultured in captivity so far and we are just at the starting point of many exciting and beautiful variations of this morph to come. 

Nick Lumb

Lilly Exotics