Brazilian rainbow boa

Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Boidae
Genus and Species: Epicrates cenchria
  • Olive snake with black outlines of circles on its back
  • Head closeup. The skin is oily-looking and some patches have a rainbow iridescence
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Brazilian rainbow boa

The Brazilian rainbow boa is a medium-sized terrestrial boa that is native to the Amazon River basin. It is named for its iridescent skin that refracts light and creates a rainbow-colored effect.

Physical Description

This soft-skinned boa has beautiful, iridescent skin. Tiny ridges on the scales act as prisms to refract light and create a rainbow-colored effect. Brazilian rainbow boas are brown or reddish brown snakes with three parallel black stripes on the top of the head and large black rings down the back that give the appearance of dorsal blotches. The round lateral blotches are black with an orange or reddish crescent across the top. There is a great deal of variation in color and marking among this species. Adult males have substantially larger spurs along the side of the vent and have noticeably thicker bases of their tails due to the internal hemipenes, their sexual organs. invaginated hemipenes.

Size

Brazilian rainbow boas are a medium sized, round-bodied terrestrial boa and range from 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) in length. The head is not particularly large, but it is distinctly wider than the neck.

Native Habitat

The Brazilian rainbow boa is found in the Amazon River basin, coastal Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname and southern Venezuela. A primarily terrestrial boa, the Brazilian rainbow boa lives in humid woodland forests and can sometimes be found in open savannas.

Food/Eating Habits

In the wild, their diet consists of rodents, birds and possibly some forms of aquatic life and lizards. Like other boas, the Brazilian rainbow boa is non-venomous. To capture and consume meals, they ambush and constrict their prey. At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, they are fed rats.

Reproduction and Development

Sexual maturity in Brazilian rainbow boas is determined by length rather than age. Males may breed at 4 feet (1.2 meters) and females at 4.5 feet (1.4 meters); they usually reach these sizes between 2.5 to 4 years of age. Gestation lasts about five months. A typical litter contains 12 to 25 babies. Baby Brazilian rainbows live in litters of two to 35. The babies are usually 15 to 20 inches (38 to 50 centimeters) long. Yearlings often grow to 36 to 40 inches (91 to 101 centimeters). Females eat more and grow larger than males.

Lifespan

They may live up to 20 years in human care.

Brazilian rainbow boas were frequently exported in the 1980s and 1990s. They are still exported, but in much more limited numbers now.