Brazilian Rainbow Boa is a medium-sized snake that is commonly seen in the Amazon River Basin. It is, in fact, a medium-sized snake with colors ranging from red to orange to mahogany brown with a darkening pattern on its back. If you ever get a chance to see this magnificent snake, you’ll understand why it is called a rainbow boa.
An interesting fact to note about the slithering organism is that these guys are commonly seen as a pet in some households in Brazil owing to its Iridescent scales.
Species: Epicrates Cenchria
Common name: The the Brazilian rainbow boa, slender boa
Diet: Small mammals & birds
Life span: Around five years in the wild and up to 30 in captivity
In this article, we will have an in-depth look at its morphological & anatomical features, their diet, their reproduction, keeping a Brazilian rainbow boa as a pet, and other interesting facts about them.
So tighten your seat belts lads. Let’s get going!
1. Rainbow boas are not rainbow colored
Yeah, first things first, they aren’t rainbow-colored. What they do have is a stunning iridescent sheen that makes it look like having a rainbow coloring.
You need to understand that it is not the color of the scale that gives it its unique rainbow appearance; instead, it’s how their skin is arranged.
Rainbow boas are covered in smooth scales that are capable of reflecting green, blue, and purple light when sunlight falls on it. This phenomenon is called structural coloration, and it is caused by the purines in the cells of their skin.
2. The coloration is, in fact, a mode of defense for them
As in the case of other organisms having bright colors on their body helps them easily camouflage with their immediate surroundings. Not all boas have the same color, for instance; the Brazilian rainbow boa is brown or reddish-brown, with big black splotches down its back.
It is quite fascinating to note that the coloration on a rainbow boa happens only on its dorsal surface and not on the ventral surface. The reason for this is straightforward because the ventral surface is never exposed, and they don’t need to conceal it.
3. They are probably the only species whose sexual maturity depends on its length
Yeah, you heard me right. In the case of a Brazilian rainbow boa, sexual maturity is dependent on the length of its body. Males breed at 4 feet and females at 4.5 feet. It generally takes 2.5 to 4 years for the boas to reach this length.
4. The Brazilian rainbow boas have heat vision
Heat vision is quite a common characteristic shown by the constrictors. In the case of a Brazilian rainbow boa, they have specialized pits enabling them to detect heat. The boas being nocturnal cannot hunt its prey with their poor vision at night, and having a thermal vision makes it easier to capture prey, which is commonly warm-blooded.
5. The functioning of heat vision in Brazilian rainbow boas
The specialized sensory cells present in the pits help the snake identify infrared and heat signatures with precision. The pit houses an infrared sensory particle that functions via a yea sensitive calcium ion channel knows as the TRPA1.
These sense organs are highly efficient that it enables them to detect even the smallest temperature difference of as low as 0.003°C and radiations of wavelengths between 5 and 30 μm from a distance of almost 1 meter away.
6. The natural habitat of the Brazilian rainbow boa
Brazilian rainbow boas are commonly seen to inhabit the Amazon river basins, coastal Guyana, Suriname & Southern side of Venezuela.
These species thrive in a hot and humid environment and are seen to occupy the tropical & sub-tropical forests in the region that are both hot and wet, making it humid.
These regions expect a steady temperature ranging between 73 & 90 degrees Fahrenheit and rainfall of 58 to 137 inches.
7. The diet of a Brazilian boa in the wild
In the wild Brazilian rainbow, boas are voracious hunters feeding on everything that’s a match for their size. They are found to feed on small rodents, mice, birds, small lizards, and even small mammals such as rabbits.
The frequency of feeding can vary depending upon how big the previous catch was. On average, the Brazilian rainbow boas feed once between 24 to 72 hours.
8. The Brazilian rainbow boa has a specialized tail that helps them climb trees
Brazilian rainbow boas are not arboreal snakes, but they do forage on the branches of trees for a bird snack. For a snake that big, climbing tall trees is going to be an arduous task. But the Brazilian rainbow boas have a specialized prehensile tail that helps them climb trees with ease.
9. Is it safe to let kids go near a pet Brazilian rainbow boa?
That entirely depends on whether the boa is in a cage or not. Some snake breeders say that adult Brazilian rainbow boas are seen to be comparatively friendly to the owner and their immediate family.
But it is still advised not to let kids near a boa if it is not caged, especially when the kids are alone. For a snake that big, it can strangle kids with ease.
10. How big can Brazilian rainbow boa grow?
Brazilian rainbow boas can grow quite large. On average, an adult male can grow anywhere between 5.5 to 6 feet long while the females can grow to lengths of 6 to 7.5 feet.
An adult Brazilian rainbow boa can weigh anywhere between 5 to 6kgs. This difference in length cannot be called sexual dimorphism in the case of Brazilian rainbow boas.
11. Are Brazilian rainbow boas venomous?
Similar to the other members of the boa family, Brazilian rainbow boas are not venomous. They kill their prey using the powerful muscles in their body by constricting them.
Though they are non-venomous, the Brazilian rainbow boas tend to bite when threatened, and their bite can be excruciating.
Being non-venomous is one of the reasons why it is legal to keep them as a pet.
12. Do the Brazilian rainbow boas have fangs?
No, the Brazilian rainbow boas do not have fangs; rather, they have hooked teeth that help them grab their prey. The Brazilian rainbow boas do not need fangs because they aren’t venomous and hence kill their prey by constricting them.
The Brazilian rainbow boas ambush catch their prey using the hooked teeth. Once they have tightly grabbed the snake, they slowly wrap itself around the prey to constrict & kill them before swallowing them on the whole.
13. Can Brazilian rainbow boas change color?
No, the Brazilian rainbow boas cannot change its color on will. But there have been cases where the breeders claim their boa to be changing colors from time to time. The only proven color change that happens with a Brazilian rainbow boa is after shedding.
In some Brazilian rainbow boas hormone cycles that changes with breeding & shedding can affect the pigments on the snakes’ skin, which appears as if the snake is changing color on will.
14. Do Brazilian rainbow boas bite? Does it hurt?
Yeah, though not dangerous, the Brazilian rainbow boas can still land a painful bite when it is threatened. This is the primary mode of defense of these snakes. When handling a pet Brazilian rainbow boa, extreme care has to be taken not to make the snake feel threatened.
In case if you get a bit, you don’t have to worry as these snakes are non-venomous. Also, the Rainbow Boa’s bite doesn’t hurt much but it can leave you with little bruises. Wash the bite area with clear water and soap. If the bleeding persists, use a bandage to stop it.
15. Can a Brazilian rainbow boa kill humans?
No, a Brazilian rainbow boa cannot kill humans. They are not venomous and kill their prey by constricting them. Not just the Brazilian rainbow boa, boas, in general, do not pose a threat to humans. Which is why they make a cool pet to have around.
16. The Brazilian rainbow boas are primitive snakes
The Brazilian rainbow boas belong to the family of the Boidae family of non-venomous constrictors that are considered to be primitive by the scientific community.
These species are called primitive because they possess two lungs, unlike most snakes that have only one. They also have leavings of a pelvic bone and vestigial hind limbs on their spinal cord.
17. The Brazilian rainbow boas are nocturnal
Unlike other snakes that aren’t nocturnal or diurnal, the Brazilian rainbow boas are nocturnal, meaning they are more active at night. The reasons for this behavior are
1. The heat-sensing pits in them function better at night giving them an edge over their prey
2. Predators of the boas will be less active at night
3. Warm-blooded prey generally comes out at night
18. The Brazilian rainbow boas kill their prey by restricting the blood flow to the vital organs
It is a common misconception that the boas kill prey by suffocating them. This isn’t true as the boas kill their prey by restricting blood flow to the vital organs and not by suffocating them.
When the boa wraps around the prey and starts constricting them, they can sense the heartbeat of the prey and determine how much more effort need to be out.
Now you might have understood why a Brazilian rainbow boa does not pose a threat to humans.
19. The predators of a Brazilian rainbow boas
The babies of Brazilian rainbow boas are vulnerable to attack from birds such as eagles and hawks. As they grow larger, they are prone to attack from larger predators such as alligators and crocodiles.
At this stage, there isn’t much a Brazilian rainbow boa can do to protect itself other than to hide from these predators.
When they attain their complete growth, they are very rarely preyed upon!
20. The Brazilian rainbow boas are ovoviviparous
In the case of Brazilian rainbow boas, they are ovoviviparous. Meaning the fertilized egg remains inside the female without any placental contact.
These eggs hatch inside the female, and she gives birth to the babies. It is interesting to note that the hatchlings do not need any parental care.
They can go out hunting on their own within weeks after birth in the wild.
21. Reproduction in Brazilian rainbow boas
The Brazilian rainbow boas like other snakes reproduce sexually. In the wild, the natural breeding season is around November to January when the climate is cool. As discussed in the earlier sections, sexual maturity in rainbow boas depends on its length; the males become mature when they reach 4ft in length while the females at 4.5ft.
22. The gestation period of the Brazilian rainbow boas
The female Brazilian rainbow boas gestate for five months, after which she gives birth to the hatching. A female boa can give birth to 12 – 24 babies in one litter, and there have also been instances where a female gave birth to 30 babies in one single litter.
23. The Brazilian rainbow boas are excellent swimmers
The Brazilian rainbow boas are excellent swimmers but contrary to which they never hunt in water. In the wild, they are seen to hunt amphibians from the edge of the water.
Quite bizarre, huh?
24. The Brazilian rainbow boas mate twice a year
The Brazilian rainbow boas in the wild can mate two times a year. Since they have a gestation period of 5 to 6 months, more than two successful mates happen very rarely.
25. Simulating reproduction of a Brazilian rainbow boa in captivity
The Brazilian rainbow boas that are selected for mating should be given a cooling-off period of about six weeks in temperatures ranging between 68 to 70 Degree Fahrenheit. By the end of the 6th week, the snakes would have become sexually active and have mated.
Extreme care has to be taken before laying the snakes for cooling off. Make sure that you don’t feed the boa anything 2 to 3 days before putting the snakes for cooling off. Any undigested food in its gut can likely kill the snakes.
26. How do Brazilian rainbow boas hunt?
The Brazilian rainbow boas aren’t active hunters; instead, they patiently wait for an ambush. Once they have identified a suitable position they sit and wait with their head out of the shelter and pound on the prey once it is within their reach.
27. The Brazilian rainbow boa babies have an amniotic sac around them
At the time of birth, the Brazilian rainbow boa babies have an amniotic sac around them, which it has to break to take the first breath. The amniotic pouch is a thick gel resembling a squirming pile of goo.
28. Are the Brazilian rainbow boas endangered?
According to the list created by the IUCN Brazilian rainbow boas are placed in the least concern category. Over the years, the rise in the number of Brazilian rainbow boas kept as exotic pets have caused their population to dwindle in their natural habitat.
29. Is it ok to feed multiple foods to a captive Brazilian rainbow boa?
Yeah, you can. The only thing to be careful while feeding a boa in captivity is the frequency of feeding them and that you don’t exceed the recommended amount of food.
30. Threats to the Brazilian rainbow boa in the wild
The common threat to the Brazilian rainbow boa in the wild is overheating & dehydration. These are, in fact, the primary cause of death of the Brazilian rainbow boas in the wild. It is for this reason the Brazilian rainbow boas are commonly found near big water bodies.
31. The Brazilian rainbow boa is the largest among the boas
Among the many rainbow boa subspecies, the Brazilian rainbow boas are the largest. These species are endemic to Central and South America and can grow up to 6ft. A peculiar difference between a Rainbow boa and other boas is their head, which is wider than their neck.
32. The Brazilian rainbow boas have poor eyesight
Similar to most snakes, the Brazilian rainbow boas have poor vision, and they rely on their sense of taste and smell to analyze their surroundings. The heat sensing capability of the snake finds its use here.
33. The Brazilian rainbow boas sense smell through their tongue
Yeah, you heard me right, the Brazilian rainbow boas sense smell using their tongue. The tongue of the boa flicks in and out of the mouth and collects the airborne particles. These particles are then analyzed by Jacobsen’s organ present in the top (roof) of their mouth to identify the smell.
34. There are microscopic rigid on the body of a Brazilian rainbow boa
The refraction of light from the body of a Brazilian rainbow boa happens from the microscopic ridges on the scale surface, which act as prisms. When light falls on these rigid, causing refraction to take place, giving its skin a rainbow-like appearance.
35. Important things to keep in mind while first handling a Brazilian rainbow boa in captivity
When handling a Brazilian rainbow boa for the first time in captivity, it is advisable to treat them during the day time in a well-lit room. The ideal way of lifting them would be to slide your arm slowly underneath the snake and lifting it gently.
Start by holding the snake in hand for a few minutes and slowly increase the time duration as your snake becomes comfortable being around you.
36. Are the Brazilian rainbow boas aggressive?
No, the Brazilian rainbow boas are not aggressive snakes in general. The adults are generally docile until they are mishandled, especially after they have a meal. In the case of babies, they are aggressive by nature.
Because these snakes are non-venomous, the Brazilian rainbow boas do not pose a direct threat to humans.
37. The Inclusion Body Disease in the Brazilian rainbow boas
The inclusion body disease is a virus infection that affects the constrictor snakes in general, especially the Brazilian rainbow boas. The typical symptom of this disease includes a fixed upward gaze & extreme difficulty in breathing.
Rainbow boas as pets
A snake as a pet? Quite unbelievable, huh?
Yeah, folks, the Brazilian rainbow boas are kept as an exotic pet in some households in Brazil. The sole reason for which being the stunning color pallets seen in their body. These snakes aren’t venomous, which makes them the ideal snake to be kept as a pet for those snake lovers out there.
The small boas can be kept in small shoe boxes and transferred to separate enclosures as they grow up. Taking care of them in captivity is relatively easy.
38. Is it legal to own a Brazilian rainbow boa?
Yeah, it is legal to own a Brazilian rainbow boa in the US. You can easily find one at an exotic pet shop or a pet trade fare. But be careful when you buy one if you are an inexperienced breeder.
Brazilian rainbow boas aren’t easy to take care of for inexperienced breeders. Buy it only if the boas are going to be your second or third pet.
39. Do I need to be careful about the bedding of my Brazilian rainbow boa?
As discussed earlier, one of the common causes of death of the Brazilian rainbow boas both in captivity and wild is dryness. While choosing the material for bed, your boa ensures that it can withstand moisture without molding or breaking down.
Some of these substrates include high grades reptile mulch, like cypress, coconut products such as Zoo Med’s Eco Earth Loose Coco Fiber Substrate, and aquarium gravel.
40. Is it safe to handle a Brazilian rainbow boa?
It entirely depends on how you handle one. Adult Brazilian rainbow boas aren’t aggressive; instead, they are docile. This makes handling them safely, but that isn’t the case with the young.
The baby boas are found to be extremely aggressive when handled, which is their instinct. Because when growing in the wild, anything that handles them can be a potential threat.
The young one can become docile after some meals & getting acquainted with their immediate environment.
41. The diet of a Brazilian rainbow boa in captivity
The diet of a Brazilian rainbow boa does not change while in captivity. They can be kept on a full rodent diet with the frequency of feeding depending upon how big their snack was. Depending upon the size of the bite, the rate can vary anytime between 24 to 72 hours.
Another essential thing to keep in mind is making your boa easily accessible to clean water. Dehydration and dryness are found to be the major threats faced by the boas in wild and captivity.
42. Optimum lighting inside a Brazilian rainbow boa cage
Having optimum lighting is the key to showcasing the magnificent creature you own. You can use a low wattage fluorescent light to light up the cage. But make sure that the cage doesn’t heat up because you don’t want your boa to get dry, which may be life-threatening to them.
Also, make sure that you turn off the lights at night because Brazilian rainbow boas are nocturnal and need 8 to 12 hours of sleep at night.
43. The lifespan of a Brazilian rainbow boa in the wild & captivity
The life span of a Brazilian rainbow boa differs significantly between the ones in the wild and the ones in captivity. In the wild, the Brazilian rainbow boas live up to 5 years while in captivity, they can live up to 30 years.
Did you know that once a 24-year-old female laid eggs, which is quite unusual for that age?
44. Keep this in mind while handling a Brazilian rainbow boa in captivity
Though the Brazilian rainbow boas make an excellent pet, you need to be very careful while handling them after they have a meal. It is always advisable not to handle the snake any time before 36 hours after they eat. In fact, the more you wait, the better it is.
45. Never feed two Brazilian rainbow boas together in captivity
If you have more than one boa in a single cage, be careful not to feed them together. Because if they are fed together, they might end up going for the same food item, and accidentally one snake might swallow the other.
46. How do I know if my pet boa is ready to shed?
The typical indication includes the snake refusing to eat, and the color of its skin starts to fade slowly. In some cases, the skin may even turn pink.
Almost a week after showing these indications, the snake may rub against their cage to shed its outer layer of skin. The Brazilian rainbow boa has the best color right after they shed.
47. How long does it take the Brazilian rainbow boa to grow in captivity?
An adequately fed female Brazilian rainbow boa can attain full growth in 3 to 5 years, and they can reach 6 to 7 feet. The mal boas can reach lengths of 4 to 6 feet in the same amount of time.
An interesting thing to note is that the Brazilian rainbow boas do not cease to grow; it’s just that the growth rate of boas slows down dramatically once they reach adulthood.
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