Dispelling Myths About the Giant Gene, Part 2: “Giant Lines”

Since it’s discovery nearly 15 years ago, the giant gene has been a source of contention within the herpetological community.  Because of the slow growth rates and arbitrary nature of the gene, especially in females, there were and are a certain number of skeptics, people who just don’t believe that the gene is co-dominant, and even more inaccurately believe that it is somehow the result of line breeding.  Simple observation tells us that neither of these assessments are accurate.  The famous “Moose” was not the result of some secret line-breeding project, or we would be seeing massive geckos of all different morphs.  The truth is, sizes have changed very little in the 18 years that I’ve been keeping leopard geckos.  Normal, non-giant males and females are pretty much the exact same size they were when I started out all those years ago.  It is important to note, here, that I’m not referring to weight.  As discussed previously, weight is the measurement of how fat an animal is, not how big it is.  Average lengths have not increased significantly over the years.  So with that as the basis for my thought processes, I will address the term “giant line”, and how I perceive its use lately around the hobby.

There are two giant “lines”, to my knowledge.  The “Moose” line, which of course has been continually worked with for over a decade, and the “Godzilla” line, which is in its infancy.  The fact that “Godzilla” is part of the “Moose line” could be used to argue that there really is only one line.  It is, to my eyes, though, obvious that the Godzilla line produces consistently larger geckos, with stockier, heavier builds.  I do have specimens from both lines, so this is based on first hand observation, not casual assumption.  Taking a step back, let’s talk briefly about a “line”, and what it means in the hobby.  In my opinion, a line is the result of a very specific effort over the course of several generations to produce a unique, definable characteristic that reproduces true.  A line is not made by giving a gecko a cute name and then marketing all of its offspring as some sort of new, different creation.  That’s simply marketing, nothing more.

So what about the term “giant line”.  To me, this is an attempt to reconcile the fact that not all giants, in fact most giants, don’t get all that large.  Super giants are where the size is, not giants.  For some reason, the understanding that a genetic trait is a genetic trait, and that it is either present or not, gets lost where the giant gene is concerned.  Perhaps it’s just a matter of patience, or lack thereof, that leads some to believe that they have to categorize the animals differently, almost as a disclaimer.  These animals take a long time to reach their full growth potential, sometimes beyond two years.  They are born giants, super giants, or not giants at all, there is no changing that.  As such, there is no such thing as “giant line”.  They’re either giant, super giant, or possibly one or the other, following Mendelian probability.  As such, the proper label should be “50% possible giant”, or “25% possible super giant”, and so on.

Why is this even important?  Well, in a “community” where information becomes diluted and transformed, it’s not doing the buyer or the seller any good to mislabel, or misinform.  The giant gene does not have to be that complicated, but it does need to be better understood, and that takes time, and patience.

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