There are several species of boas, but the most common is the boa constrictor, these snakes owe its name to the way its victims are killed, by constriction, just like most non-venomous snakes.
In a rare occurrence this is an animal that has the same common English name and scientific binomial name, the boa constrictor. There are currently 10 subspecies of Boa constrictor, however many of those are very similar and with further research will probably be redefined as some of the subspecies appear to be based more on location rather than biological differences.
The boa constrictor inhabits Central and South America from northern Mexico to Argentina, but is more frequent in dense forests of Costa Rica and throughout the Amazon rain-forest's, although they are also found in some Caribbean islands.
The various sub-species of boas live in deserts, wet tropical forests, savannas, and on cultivated fields, ranging from sea level to a moderate elevation.
After the boa constrictor ambush attack is carried out and the prey secured, the snake wraps is body around the prey, and begins to slowly strangle the animal. Every time the victim breathes, the snake tightens the loops, until the animal will eventually suffocate and die.
Despite the countless stories about large boa constrictor snakes, the truth is that the species is far from having very large specimens.
Like those that are part of popular culture like Pythons and Anacondas, the world's biggest snakes.
In fact the boa constrictor rarely exceeds 3.5 m (11.5 ft) in length, and most specimens average a maximum of 3 m (10 ft), although on occasion may appear larger snakes at around 4 m (13 ft), that are probably old animals that live in areas with an abundance of food.
The boa constrictor may live up to 25 years and weigh somewhere between 35 and 45 kg, the females are generally significantly longer than males and have a bigger girth.
The boa constrictor is extremely peaceful and elusive, it will always avoid contact with large animals, humans included. Despite being slow by nature, the species flees when they feel threatened and, when caught out or cornered, it will release all the air in the lungs, causing a characteristic whistle, in an attempt to ward off intruders.
But will strike when perceiving a threat, their bite although painful, especially from a large specimen, is rarely dangerous to humans.
Depending mostly on the surrounding environment a boa constrictor can vary greatly in color, their coloring is in fact used very effectively as camouflage. They generally have a brown, gray or cream base color, with a pattern of brown or reddish brown markings on their body.
They are both terrestrial and arboreal animals, especially the smaller specimens, they are also known to be excellent swimmers, but for the most part stay on dry land, living usually in hollow logs and abandoned burrows. The species has mainly nocturnal hunting habits. Using their heat-sensitive organs, very similar to those of venomous pit vipers, to locate suitable warm-blooded prey at night.
Subspecies / Taxonomy
Over time several other subspecies have been described by scientists but are no longer considered to be valid subspecies.
These are the subspecies currently considered valid by most taxonomists and herpetologists.
But since most of them have very little differences and future studies will probably redefine many of these subspecies.
Red-tailed boa (B. c. constrictor - Linnaeus, 1758) - Found in South America.
Amaral's boa (B. c. amarali - Stull, 1932) - Found in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.
Common northern boa (B. c. imperator - Daudin, 1803) - Found in the northern regions of South America and Central America.
Tumbes Peru boa (B. c. longicauda - Price & Russo, 1991) - Found in Northern regions of Peru.
Ecuadorian boa (B. c. melanogaster - Langhammer, 1983) - Found only in Ecuador.
Argentine boa (B. c. occidentalis - Philippi, 1873) - Found as its name implies in Argentina but also Paraguay.
Dominican clouded boa (B. c. nebulosa - Lazell, 1964) - Found in Dominica a sovereign island country in the Lesser Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean Sea.
Saint Lucia boa (B. c. orophias - Linnaeus, 1758) - Found in Saint Lucia the sovereign island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea.
Pearl Island boa (B. c. sabogae - Barbour, 1906) - Found in Pearl Islands just off the coast of Panama.
Orton's boa (B. c. ortonii - Cope, 1878) - Found in South America.
Diet / Feeding
The boa constrictor is a carnivore, they feed on small and medium-sized birds, bats, medium and small rodents and other reptiles, like lizards or other snakes. The juveniles eat mostly small mice, birds, bats, lizards, and amphibians.
Whenever the snake eats a large prey, the boa constrictor then goes on a period of lethargy, which can last for several weeks or even months until the meal is digested and the snake needs to feed again.
The female emits a very specific scent from the cloaca to try and attract males. This species is viviparous, when hatchlings are born they are completely formed and alive. The gestation period lasts around 4 to 8 months.
The juveniles birth will take place normally in the first months of the year, which coincides with summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
Conservation / Threats
These snakes have been hunted for their fine, beautiful skin and for sale in the exotic pet trade, some boa constrictor subspecies are endangered and most have protected status in their geographical range.
In the past thousands of wild caught boa constrictors were imported into the US, particularly from the late 70's to mid 80's, putting their wild populations under severe pressure. However, most boa constrictor populations are not threatened of immediate extinction.
With the exception of the Argentine boa (B.c.occidentalis) which is listed in CITES Appendix I all other subspecies are listed under CITES Appendix II. Boa constrictors are the second snake most commonly killed for snake skin products after the reticulated python. Boa constrictors are considered to be an invasive species in Florida.
Did You Know?
Moving up to up to 20 km/h the deadly black mamba is the world’s fastest snake.