Soft Scales & Super Softs
The Soft Scale & Super Soft Scale Project
NOTES ADDED 2/19/2024
Soft Scale is technically an incomplete dominant mutation, the Super Soft being the homozygous form. That being said, one could argue is a recessive because the Soft Scale is so subtle in single-gene form.
(Parent x Parent = Offspring Percentages)
Soft x Non-Soft = 50% Soft and 50% Non-Soft
Soft x Soft = 25% Non-Soft, 25% Super Soft and 50% Soft
Super Soft x Non-Soft = 100% Soft
Super Soft x Soft = 50% Super Soft and 50% Soft
Super Soft x Super Soft = 100% Super Soft
But here's where it gets tougher if you're not working with Super Softs, and why it took me a decade plus to introduce the project:
The Soft Scale is different, but only really noticeable if you're a gecko nerd like me, and you've seen a LOT of crested geckos. While I found it significant in terms of breeding potential, on its own it is SUBTLE by any standard. I was in the middle of a gecko-buying-bender when I discovered it in 2003. Otherwise I likely wouldn't have thought anything of it. While I immediately knew it was different, I also instantly knew it wasn't different enough to market as anything special...not unless I could do something cool with it. So I simply didn't say anything about it on my website or on social media. I would talk about it pretty openly in private conversation, but that was about as far as I went to acknowledge the existence of the project. I just showed friends and we had fun talking about them at the warehouse.
I bred the original Soft Scale female with Harry and held almost everything back for years. I would trickle a few out here and there, but only to people I knew and liked. And most of them probably lost track of those geckos over the years. As those geckos I produced with her and Harry bred with other things, I mostly used them as outcrossing material because of the Harry-line structure that I want in EVERYTHING. That was really my intention for those babies I had been hoarding, if nothing came of the Soft Scale thing...but boy, did it.
Full blown Whitewalls started popping up in increasing numbers from about 2010-2012, and then suddenly, this little project had my attention. It was when we did outcrossings so that we could bolster the Whitewall project, that we started breeding soft scales together....sometime in 2011-2012. The next handful of years gave me the Whitewalls that I fully expected to get, along with this freakish looking gecko that I would quickly learn was a Super Soft Scale, when we started producing them on a semi-regular basis.
When the Super Soft popped up, I had been keeping the project quiet for about a third of my entire life, if that helps put it in perspective for you. Needless to say, we had a lot of these geckos already in the stable of most projects, and that is what enabled me to start selling them quickly and at a relatively reasonable price, though if I recall correctly, it was still the most expensive crested gecko out there at the time, and I caught some heat for it. :-)
Super Soft Scales, unlike the Soft Scales that we bred to get them, are anything but subtle...they are incredibly unique, they offer tremendous breeding potential and they've been holding their base price for a decade plus. One thing to note is that, as we continue to produce new combos, the top-end Super Soft combo price has gone up. In other words, adding new genes adds to the value of top-tier Super Softs, rather than making non-combo Super Softs less expensive.
Health and Size
Unlike various mutations that occasionally surface in all reptile species, the Super Softs are not weak or genetically compromised in any way at all. In fact, my largest gecko to date, in a breeding colony of 5,000+ crested geckos, is a 94 gram (at last check) tailless male named "Big Head", who is a Super Soft Scale from our Tangerine on Lavender project. He is an absolute beast...he's lean/muscular and absolutely huge. His head is a thing of beauty...not only the biggest I've seen, but the proportions are perfectly ideal.
What exactly is a Soft Scale and a Super Soft Scale?
For years I wasn't sure, physically, what exactly it was causing these geckos to look and feel different from anything else I had seen.
As it turns out, the scale spacing looks to be the caused by another gene responsible for the Harry line structure, which you'll see referred to as "Scatter Scale" in some new articles.
The following is what I added to my description of Soft Scales to mention the scale spacing issue after it was brought to my attention, which was in 2018 or thereabouts. Note that I did not go so far as to say that scale spacing could or should be used to identify the presence of the soft scale gene. This is because I never agreed with that idea and I often used Harry line structure as an example of why.
Upon examining some professional macro photographs, and looking at some of the more extreme examples of Super Soft Scales under a photographer's loupe, it appears these geckos exhibit fewer bumps or "scales" on their skin, leaving more space between. On pinstripe pattern scales along the dorsal crests, things can vary a bit.On some geckos the pinstripe scales seem to flatten and somewhat enlarge in diameter, while on others, the pinstripe scales seem to be of normal shape and size, but they're far more spread out. Our famous Harry Lineage's structure is a big part of the founding group of Soft Scales, so I think that gives us a bit of a wildcard, and is probably why we seem some variation in the way pinstripe scales are arranged or shaped.
There's a lot more going on with the Soft Scale and Super Soft Scale morphs than just the softer feel and the odd scalation. The color is generally enhanced and cleaned up, often making orange, red, and yellow pigments appear brighter than what you'd see on a non-Soft version of that crested gecko. Another strange thing we're noticing is the appearance of a dark grey or black ring around the edge of the exposed part of the eyeball. Some geckos even have more of a steely grey eye color, rather than the warmer coppery tones we normally see.
The existence of a "Super" form of the Soft Scale, and how easily it is reproduced, is really what makes this project special.
Do I have a Soft Scale?
Chances are that I leaked some Soft Scales without knowing it for years. I have no doubt there are some unidentified Soft Scales floating around in the hobby, but the thing is, it can take a well-trained eye to spot them.
While there may be geckos out there who feel soft, or have some of the other traits I mentioned, the true test to find out if a gecko is a Soft Scale is to breed it and see if you get more soft scales (or supers if you have a pair). That's how it was done here and that's about the only way to know for sure.
How to produce the Super Soft Scale
As I've touched on earlier, the Super Soft is far more extreme than the Soft Scale, at least by the time they reach adulthood, and it only takes two Soft Scales to produce some Supers (giving you genetic odds of 1 in 4). The Super Soft Scale, in my professional opinion, appears to be the homozygous form of what's referred to, in the reptile hobby, as a co-dominant genetic mutation (although my fellow python morph breeders could make a good case to call this a recessive trait since the soft scales can be hard to pick out and could be considered somewhat-visual "hets").
The Super Soft is produced by simply breeding two Soft Scales together - not years and years of line-breeding. We are currently doing some controlled test breedings with completely unrelated breeder geckos, in order to verify the genetic mode of inheritance, but after having spent over two decades (which is over half my life - I'm not that old!) in the world of python morphs, I'm quite confident that's what we have here.
We are finally starting to offer a small number of Soft Scales in yellow, orange, and dark red base colors, in addition to the lavender, lavender/black, and chocolate (original color) ones. We are also starting to offer a select few Super Softs, which can only be produced by breeding two Soft Scales together.
The Soft Scale Story
This is a project I have been working on since I acquired a clean/pretty chocolate colored female Soft Scale in 2004 from a wholesaler. I immediately noticed a difference in her look and feel, and I decided right then that I would at least hold back all of her offspring for the first couple years to see what happens. Being a big reptile morph guy since I was a teenager, I had seen the introductions of variou bearded dragon and colubrid morphs with similar appearances. Because I was aware of those, this morph, fortunately, didn't just slip through my fingers when I encountered it.
Since it was a unique scale structure or texture that I hadn't seen (or felt) before, I decided to breed her to Harry, an unusually spiny/shaggy looking male that matched her color and pinstripe pattern. I figured that way I would have two unique "side projects" in one, and regardless of how soft the soft scales got, Harry's DNA would provide me with the best chance of maintaining great crest structure with the Soft Scales. The softness was indeed inherited by several of the first generation of Soft/Harry offspring, and we got some nice examples of Harry's structure as well.
For several years I went about my business, crossing those geckos into other lines of Pinstripes and keeping all soft scales, which I did for a very long time, before finally breeding Soft x Soft and producing the first Super Softs.
Fun Fact: The Whiteout lateral markings that I developed within my colony, which also come in an Extreme/Super form that some people call "Whitewall" markings, actually started with geckos descended from the very first Harry x Soft Scale pairing. In fact, for years I thought Whiteout/Whitewall markings were part of the Soft Scale morph, but later found out they are inherited separately. In reality, it was my attraction to the Whiteout markings, and wanting to breed them to all my projects, that has made the Soft Scale morph so prominent in my collection over the past several years.
Then came the Super Soft Scales...
When the first few Super Softs hatched, just a few years ago, I was pretty impressed - I thought we were finally getting somewhere. By the time these geckos had reached 20 grams I was in complete and utter shock. We weren't getting somewhere, we were THERE, and line-breeding wasn't how we got there. You have to understand - on the Supers, it's not like they just got a double dose of the Soft Scale trait - it's like a quadruple dose. Unlike most Soft Scales, which you need to see up close, or even touch, to appreciate, the Super Soft form is extreme and different enough to recognize from across the room. Very extreme, very soft, and even the color can be affected, sometimes drastically brightened and cleaned up. The most impressive part about the Supers is that they're not something I had to selectively breed for over 5-10 generations. That's HUGE, not only for moving the project forward, but for the crested gecko market/hobby as a whole. Something this cool and this easy to reproduce is bound to be wildly popular, and it will bring popularity to other projects that combine well with the Super Soft Scale look. Not only that, I think the Soft Scale project is going to generate some major interest outside of crested gecko circles.
Soft Scale Project Photos
The above gecko is a Super Soft Scale from the original Harry x Soft Scale lineage, but was produced many generations into the project. He looks like a highly refined version of Harry himself, and he's a Super Soft. Very nice example of both. Notice he also has Whiteout lateral markings on his sides. The dark rings around the eyes, which are attributed to the Soft Scale trait/gene, are also quite evident on this particular gecko.
The gecko above is a Super Soft Scale Red Extreme Harlequin. She also has Whiteout lateral markings, although they're pretty fragmented due to the Extreme Harley pattern. Also notice the textbook Harry line structure. One of my favorite geckos of all time. This particular lineage is still incredibly rare and will not be released for another several years.
Above is an incredibly exciting hatchling. This is a Super Soft Scale Tangerine x C2 Citrus line Yellow-Orange Quad Stripe. This gecko is absolutely gorgeous in person - pink, orange, and cream.
This is a Soft Scale Extreme Whiteout Yellow-Orange & Cream Pinstripe. This is a great example of what can be done when the Soft Scale gene is bred into an already clean/bright colored lineage. Although not particularly obvious to me at first, her feel in the hand made it plainly obvious what she was before I even bred her. Geckos with color like this are a big part of why the Soft Scale project is going to be huge.
This stunning gecko is a product of the original Harry x Soft Scale lineage and our Tangerine x Lavender lineage, hatched here in the past couple years. You can see he has a bit of a green tinge to him, and a ton of Tangerine pigment. This is a particularly strong visual example of the Super Soft Scale structure and of Tangerine pigment. On top of being a Super Soft, he's spiny due to Harry's DNA. Very excited to see where this guy takes us.
This is a first-generation Soft Scale produced by Harry and the original female Soft Scale, way back in 2005. Not only was she gorgeous, but that structure took zero selective breeding effort - first generation Soft Scale. Had I known then what I know now, this would have been my first indication I had something special. She was one of the very best examples of Harry's structure on any of those first generation Soft Scales, and she is still here to this day. She was an instrumentally big step forward in both the Harry lineage and in the Soft Scale project - I just didn't quite realize it at the time. Though I could tell she was soft like her mom, I didn't think it was different enough to be marketable. The Super Soft Scale obviously changed that.
Soft Scale Project Pricing
Unlike with some genes, where pricing starts off high because there are only a few animals available, I was very patient in releasing this project and therefore able to price them as a more established price of around $1,000-1,500 for Super Softs. The price of adults has remained relatively unchanged since their introduction to the market, which if I recall correctly, was the 2013-2014 season. As time went on, more genes have been added to our Super Soft combos and those combos have fetched 2-3x the price of a Soft Scale.
Possible Soft Scales & Soft Scales - $250 to $1,500+
Think of these as hets that are sometimes visual --- $250-1,500+ depending on size, appearance, and sex. Sometimes we get Soft Scale on what would already be a $1,000-1,500 gecko, etc.
Super Soft Scales - $1K-2,500+
Prices vary widely on size, appearance and presence of other traits. Remember, these are much harder to produce because you need a male and female Soft Scale, and even then you only get 1 in 4. The best way is to breed Super Soft x Super Soft, but it takes time to be able to do that. We started at $1K on these, prices dropped a little after the first year, and now are climbing back up as specimens get nicer and people are becoming aware that it's a real morph!