Personally I would cull them all... but...On this note, where does the line get drawn in the case of enigmas?
From what I understand... which I have to admit is a result of information given to me by other people... the enigma morph is codominant Edit: Please see Tony's Post quoting this one, I was mistaken. and the enigma issues are only seen in the animals displaying the color/pattern trait, never in normal siblings produced from the same lines. Expression is unpredictable, with enigmas displaying a lot of variability in how intense and frequent the problems are and even that can change, with the issues intensifying or receding in individual animals over time.Obviously, the concerned breeder isn't going to breed any animals with severe enigma syndrome, but even the best of them can develop problems later in life, or have offspring that have problems.
Since it appears (again, from what I have been told- I'm really not that into leopard geckos and am not delving deeply into any of the morphs for the species) that the pigment and the spinning have an identical genetic cause- a single allele simultaneously responsible for both traits, then it can't be spread beyond enigma production. All enigmas have the potential for a variable expression of the issue, non-enigmas will not, even if they are crossed out of an enigma project and into other lines.
Provided that is accurate then enigma projects only harm enigma projects. It's self contained. To a point anyway, enigmas and enigma derivatives.
I don't like it and I would cull them because... well, there are quality of life questions and it is propagating a negative trait for the sake of a color morph, which I feel is a pretty crappy reason to allow a health issue to spread through multiple generations. I don't really like morphs anyway though, my preferences run to natural patterns and colors, so I am biased as to the value of a morph.
People who do choose to work with it are able to do so with the knowledge that any neurological issues that end up being displayed will never contaminate the larger population. As far as I have been told the degree of expression can be somewhat random, but there are a lot of questions about exactly what prompts individual animals to display the problems the way they display them. One of the people working with them may eventually work out a suspicion and manage to isolate a cause- if they do, then it might be something that can be addressed through husbandry adjustments. I still would want to cull them all, but if it turns out to be something like a vitamin uptake issue that can be fixed with supplementation then the quality of life question pretty much evaporates.
A tricky question for every breeding, not just the enigma morph.Where is the balance of creating the most beautiful animal that you can and keeping the integrity of the genetic pool?
Ultimately every pairing that happens in captivity is unnatural, we circumvent the selection strategies of the animals, we remove most of the dangers that would prevent unfit individuals from making it to adulthood and entering the breeding pool, we select individuals based on our own criteria rather than the traits that would bring together two animals in a wild environment. To some degree, the integrity of any captive gene pool is shot as soon as a human being gets involved in picking out which animal will mate with which other animal.
When we practice genetic management, through selective breeding and appropriately responsible culling practices, we're mostly weeding out the obvious, the overwhelmingly bad stuff that is clearly and without question no good. We've redefined a baseline for healthy and successful by altering the experiences an animal will have over the course of its life and we breed and cull based on an animal being fit for success when the issues of predators and prey and diseases are removed or severely reduced. A healthy immune response becomes a trait that is less significant in the probability of an individual passing along their genes than the aesthetic appeal of color and pattern (and not even the appeal of color and pattern to the animals themselves, the appeal to us).
Which really just means that our responsibility to carefully consider each pairing and our duties when it comes to the fate of the offspring are overwhelming. Breeders have replaced natural selection, very few animals are allowed to fall victim to the usual elements that eliminate most wild reptiles before they reach adulthood. Failure to thrive is something that we try our hardest not to allow individuals to succumb to. Every single trait, no matter how major or minute, is in our hands- to reproduce or to excise.
When we make our selections for color and pattern- the new yardstick for genetic success with captive animals- we should always weigh every other trait just as heavily. Is is a strong feeder? Is the line prone to illness? Does the animal have good muscle tone? Are all the sensory organs apparently strong and acute? Does it shed cleanly and easily? Does it display any negative behaviors?*
Many of these things can be difficult to quantify to begin with and since many of them can also be altered by husbandry parameters, there is a constant question about where the exact line is drawn and each individual prospective breeder (animal) should receive careful consideration before it is included in a project. It always ends up being a judgment call on the part of the owner- but there are people who never even pause to give it any thought.
I am sure there are people working with enigmas who simply do not give a damn as long as they make some money.Is it truly possible to find that balance in this case, or is the use of enigmas nothing but a blatant cash-grab, no matter how you rationalize it?
I am also sure that there are people who are working with them with the express intention of minimizing the negative trait. That's an enormous job that, if it is even possible, would require years of intense record keeping and minor variations in individual variables while maintaining control groups and large numbers of geckos. Hard work. Hard work that might never pay off... I am pretty sure financial gain is kind of far down their list for the reasons they choose to try anyway.
I am also pretty sure that the biggest group of enigma owners probably haven't given it much thought. There's a huge group of pretty much silent reptile keepers in the world. Folks who have one or two as a family pet that they picked up at a reptile show because Little Timmy had a good report card and likes lizards that don't give it any further thought. Lots of people who are pretty much in that same category that might try their hand at a very small breeding project too. Most of them will never find their way on to internet forums. Most of them never even make it into their local herp society. They have a book and maybe a website or three and that is as far as they care to educate themselves.
Even the ones who might make it as far as registering on a web forum might not care enough to pay attention. Just look at the recent threads that have dealt with this and similar topics; half the participants want to stick their fingers in their ears and hum because they could never consider ending the life of an animal.** Some of them listen and learn, which is great. Some of them don't, which is not. Who knows what the ones who read it and don't respond go away thinking.
*not "does it bite?" which is... an entirely different matter, but things like face rubbing, stress regurgitation or coprophagia
**and I may end up sounding like an elitist asshat here, but the dividing line on something like culling seems to be almost exclusively drawn between educated, experienced people and uneducated, inexperienced people. The second I see a line like "I would never kill an animal! You don't kill people with down syndrome, do you?!" I know exactly what kind of knowledge that person has. Unfortunately, they often fail to see the same difference and it can be difficult to point it out to them, in the interest of getting them to pay attention and learn, without them getting their panties in a wad.