Erycinae

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Erycinae
Eryx jaculus.jpg
Javelin sand boa, E. jaculus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Boidae
Subfamily: Erycinae
Bonaparte, 1831
Synonyms
  • Erycina Bonaparte, 1831
  • Erycidae Bonaparte, 1840
  • Erycina — Bonaparte, 1840
  • Erycides
    A.M.C. Duméril & Bibron, 1844
  • Charinidae Cope, 1900
  • Erycinae Kuhn, 1967
  • Erycinidae Kuhn, 1967
Common names: Old World sand boas[1]

The Erycinae are a subfamily of nonvenomous snakes, commonly called boas, found in Europe, Asia Minor, Africa, Arabia, central and southwestern Asia, India, Sri Lanka, and western North America. Three genera comprising 15 species are currently recognized.[1]

Description[edit]

This is a subfamily of stout-bodied snakes, all of which are competent burrowers. The largest, E. johnii, rarely exceeds 120 cm (47 in) in total length (including tail). Most grow to around 60 cm (24 in) in totallength. They have small eyes and hard, small scales to protect their skin from the grit of sand. A great deal of sexual dimorphism exists, with females generally becoming much larger than males.

Geographic range[edit]

They are found in south and southeastern Europe, Asia Minor, north, central, west and east Africa, Arabia, central and southwestern Asia, India, Sri Lanka, southwestern Canada, the western United States, and northwestern Mexico.[2]

Fossil erycines have been found in rock strata over 50 million years old, and were once widespread in North America. Now, only two females remain in North America, as well as the sand boas in Africa, Asia, and southeastern Europe.

Behavior[edit]

The majority of these snakes spend much of their time basking below the surface of the sand, with only their eyes or head exposed on the surface. When potential prey approaches, they erupt out of the sand, bite, and employ constriction to subdue it.

Feeding[edit]

Their primary diet consists of rodents, but they have also been known to prey on lizards and birds.

Reproduction[edit]

Otherwise far removed from their boine relatives, they are generally ovoviviparous, i.e., giving birth to live young. Still, at least three species lay eggs: the Calabar python, Charina reinhardtii (once regarded as a python for this reason), the Arabian sand boa, Eryx jayakari, and the West African sand boa, E. muelleri.

Smuggling and poaching in India[edit]

The Indian government has failed to protect rare species of sand boa in India. Poaching and smuggling of this creature is very alarming.[3][4][5][6] Most of the smuggled snakes go to the USA, where they are considered very attractive.[7] There is a misconception about their medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties, as well as the belief that keeping this snake as a pet brings wealth and prosperity.” In recent times, the trade of the sand boas has increased not just in South India, but also in the north. Each specimen of a rare sand boa is sold for four to five million US dollars[citation needed] and poor locals of India are prone to sell them to bigger rackets for a very low price. Recently, few authorities have busted smugglers, but a very large sand boa smuggling operation is ongoing in India.

Captivity[edit]

Gongylophis colubrinus, G. conicus and E. johnii are frequently available in the exotic pet trade and are often captive bred. They breed readily, their small size making them an attractive option. On the down side, they sometimes have a tendency to be a little nippy, and spend the vast majority of their time hiding; so some keepers may not find them as enjoyable as the more gregarious species. They are usually not an aggressive species, though. Other species are not commonly available, but are occasionally imported, not usually captive bred.

Javelin sand boa

Genera[edit]

Genus[1] Taxon author[1] Species[1] Subsp.*[1] Common name Geographic range[2]
Charina Gray, 1849 4 2 Rosy boas, rubber boas North America from southwestern Canada south through the western United States into northwestern Mexico, west and central Africa from Liberia and Sierra Leone to Cameroon (including Bioko Island), the Central African Republic, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (almost as far east as Lake Kivu)
EryxT Daudin, 1803 8 2 Old world sand boas Southeastern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East and southwestern Asia
Gongylophis Wagler, 1830 3 0 Sand boas Africa from Mauritania and Senegal east to Egypt and south to Tanzania, also reported from the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent from eastern Pakistan, eastern India and Bangladesh south as far as northwestern Sri Lanka

* Not including the nominate subspecies.
T Type genus.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bonaparte, Carlo Luciano. 1831. Saggio di una distribuzione metodica degli animali vertebrati. Rome: Antonio Boulzaler. 144 pp. (Subfamily "Erycina [sic]", p. 67). (in Italian).
  • Goin CJ, Goin OB, Zug GR. 1978. Introduction to Herpetology, Third Edition. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Company. xi + 378 pp. ISBN 0-7167-0020-4. (Subfamily Erycinae, p. 319).

External links[edit]