Rainbow boa

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Rainbow boa
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Boidae
Genus: Epicrates
E. cenchria
Binomial name
Epicrates cenchria
Synonyms List
  • Boa cenchria
    Linnaeus, 1754
  • [Boa] Cenchria
    Linnaeus, 1758
  • Coluber tamachia
    Scopoli, 1788
  • Boa Cenchris
    Gmelin, 1788
  • Boa aboma
    Daudin, 1803
  • Boa ternatea
    Daudin, 1803
  • Boa annulifer
    Daudin, 1803
  • [Epicrates] cenchria
    Wagler, 1830
  • Cliftia fusca
    Gray, 1849
  • Epicarsius cupreus
    J.G. Fischer, 1856
  • Epicarsius cupreus
    — Brown, 1893
  • Epicrates cenchris
    Boulenger, 1893
  • Epicrates cenchria
    Griffin, 1916
  • Epicrates cenchria var. fusca
    — Griffin, 1916
  • Epicrates cenchria cenchria
    Amaral, 1930
  • Epicrates cenchria cenchria
    Stull, 1938

The rainbow boa (Epicrates cenchria) is a boa species endemic to Central and South America. A semi-arboreal species (not only do they climb in the wild but also proven in captivity), it is known for its attractive iridescent/holographic sheen caused by structural coloration. Five subspecies are currently recognized, including the nominate subspecies described here.[3]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The rainbow boa is found in lower Central America (Costa Rica and Panama), and farther south into South America. It occurs east of the Andes, roughly reaching northern Argentina (in the provinces Chaco, Córdoba, Corrientes, Formosa, Salta, Santiago del Estero and Tucumán).

The rainbow boa's habitat generally consists of humid woodlands and rainforests, but it can also be found in open savannas.


Rainbow boas are nocturnal and most active in the middle of the night.

This species is semi-arboreal, spending time both on the ground and in trees. They are also known to spend time in bodies of water, and are considered capable swimmers.[4]

Mating habits[edit]

Rainbow boa sexes have different ages at which they can/should mate. Females should be from 2.5 to 4.5 years old before breeding. Males should be a minimum of 2.5 years old. Females need to be the correct size otherwise they could have complications during and after birth. Males can mate with multiple females which can be beneficial for reptile breeding.

Eating habits during breeding season[edit]

Males generally go without feeding during the mating season and Females tend to eat smaller portions during the breeding season. In order to decrease the probability of birthing issues, Females should be fed smaller rats/mice in order to save space for proper ova development.

It is not unusual for both sexes to go without eating during the mating season.


The most common type of rainbow boa found in the pet trade is the Brazilian rainbow boa, E. c. cenchria. During the 1980s and early 1990s, substantial numbers were exported from Suriname. Today, however, far fewer are exported, and most offered for sale are captive bred.[5] With good care, a captive Brazilian rainbow boa can be expected to live for up to 30 years.[4]


Subspecies[3] Taxon author[3] Common name Geographic range
Epicrates cenchria barbouri Stull, 1938 Marajo Island rainbow boa
Epicrates cenchria cenchria (Linnaeus, 1758) Brazilian rainbow boa the Amazon Basin and in coastal Guiana, French Guiana, Suriname and southern Venezuela
Epicrates cenchria gaigeae Stull, 1938 Peruvian rainbow boa
Epicrates cenchria hygrophilus Amaral, 1935 Espirito Santo rainbow boa
Epicrates cenchria polylepis Amaral, 1935 Central Highlands rainbow boa


The subspecific names barbouri and gaigeae are in honor of American herpetologists Thomas Barbour and Helen Beulah Thompson Gaige, respectively.[6]


Rainbow Boas are renowned for their fascinating appearance, which captivates reptile enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Their striking features contribute to their allure and make them stand out among other snake species.[7]


One of the most captivating aspects of Rainbow Boas is their vibrant and iridescent colors. They possess a wide range of hues, including deep reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, and even purples. The iridescence of their scales gives them a mesmerizing shimmer when light reflects off them. These vivid colors make Rainbow Boas visually stunning and eye-catching creatures.[8]


In addition to their vibrant colors, Rainbow Boas display unique patterns on their scales. These patterns can vary from species to species and even among individuals. Some Rainbow Boas have distinct saddle-shaped markings along their bodies, while others may exhibit blotches or speckles. These patterns add to their visual appeal and make each snake distinct and visually captivating.[9]


Rainbow Boas have smooth and glossy scales that contribute to their overall aesthetic appeal. The scales are not only visually pleasing but also serve functional purposes. The overlapping scales provide protection, minimize water loss, and aid in their movement through various terrains. The sleekness of their scales enhances the overall beauty of Rainbow Boas.[10]

The combination of vibrant colors, unique patterns, and smooth scales makes Rainbow Boas truly remarkable in terms of their appearance. Their visual allure is often a primary reason why they are admired and sought after as both exotic pets and subjects of fascination in the natural world.

In the next section, we will explore the behavioral characteristics and natural habitat of Rainbow Boas, shedding light on their intriguing behavior and ecological significance.[11]



  1. ^ Calderón, M.; Ortega, A.; Catenazzi, A.; Gagliardi, G.; Cisneros-Heredia, D.F.; Nogueira, C. de C.; Schargel, W.; Rivas, G. (2021). "Epicrates cenchria". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2021: e.T15154721A15154747. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-2.RLTS.T15154721A15154747.en. Retrieved 15 August 2023.
  2. ^ McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré TA (1999). Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Volume 1. Washington, District of Columbia: Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
  3. ^ a b c "Epicrates cenchria ". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  4. ^ a b Healey, Mariah. "Brazilian Rainbow Boa Care Sheet". ReptiFiles. Retrieved 2022-01-18.
  5. ^ Brazilian Rainbow Boa at Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Accessed 12 November 2008.
  6. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Epicrates cenchria alvarezi, p. 6;
    E. c. barbouri, p. 16; E. c. gaigeae, p. 96).
  7. ^ https://ophiology.net/rainbow-boa/
  8. ^ https://ophiology.net/rainbow-boa/
  9. ^ https://ophiology.net/rainbow-boa/
  10. ^ https://ophiology.net/rainbow-boa/
  11. ^ https://ophiology.net/

Further reading[edit]

  • Boulenger GA (1893). Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume I., Containing the Families ... Boidæ ... London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). xiii + 448 pp. + Plates I-XXVIII. (Epicrates cenchris, pp. 94–96).
  • Freiberg M (1982). Snakes of South America. Hong Kong: T.F.H. Publications. 189 pp. ISBN 0-87666-912-7. (Epicrates cenchria, pp. 87–88, 125-127 + photographs on pp. 18–19, 22-23, 45).
  • Linnaeus C (1758). Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, dierentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio Decima, Reformata. Stockholm: L. Salvius. 824 pp. (Boa cenchria, new species, p. 215). (in Latin).

External links[edit]