Cuban boa (Epicrates angulifer)

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Cuban boa flicking its tongue
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Cuban boa fact file

Cuban boa description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyBoidae
GenusEpicrates (1)

The Cuban boa (Epicrates angulifer) is the largest species in its genus (4), and the largest snake in the West Indies (excluding Trinidad) (3).

An attractive snake, the Cuban boa varies in appearance across its range. In western Cuba, it tends to have bold, dark brown or black markings on the top and sides of the body, whereas further east, it tends to be paler with less distinguished markings (3).

Also known as
Cuban tree boa.
French
Boa De Cuba.
Spanish
Maja De Sta. María.
Size
Length: 2.0 - 4.8 m (3)
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Cuban boa biology

The Cuban boa is largely nocturnal (6), and its diet consists of birds, rodents, bats and lizards (Cyclura species) (3). It has been known to prey on small snakes, such as the woodsnake (Tropidophis melanurus). The juvenile tends to feed on small lizards in the Anolis genus that are found in trees. The Cuban boa is easily agitated and will habitually strike (3).

It is a skilful predator and prey, such as rodents, are ambushed on the ground. Remarkably, it is also able to snatch bats from the air, as they enter or exit roosting caves (3) (5) (6). Heat-sensing pits in crevices on the mouth detect temperature changes as low as 0.10 degrees Celsius, enabling the Cuban boa to detect warm-blooded prey in the dark (6). Prey is initially seized by the Cuban boa with its teeth, and it then coils its body around the prey and squeezes, eventually causing suffocation of the prey (7).

Like other boas, the Cuban boa gives birth to live young, as opposed to laying eggs (6) (7). The embryos remain in a soft membrane within the female, and the gestation period is approximately four months (7). Shortly before birth, the young break out of the membrane and the female Cuban boa then gives birth to between one and seven offspring (3). The young measure approximately 40 centimetres in length, and are independent of any parental care from birth (7).

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Cuban boa range

The Cuban boa is endemic to Cuba, and is distributed throughout the island. It can also be found on Isla de la Juventud, a Cuban island off the southwest coast of Cuba (3).

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Cuban boa habitat

The young Cuban boa is mainly arboreal, inhabiting trees in tropical forests. It becomes more terrestrial as it grows (4) and can be found in moist and dry woodland as well as rocky habitats (3). The Cuban boa has also been observed coiled around roots at the entrances to caves (5).

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Cuban boa status

The Cuban boa is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (2).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened

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Cuban boa threats

The Cuban boa is persecuted by local villagers, who believe the snake targets chickens and other poultry (7).

Since it lives on small islands, natural disasters such as forest fires or cyclones may potentially wipe out the Cuban boa population (7).

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Cuban boa conservation

International trade in the Cuban boa is restricted by its listing on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (2). The Cuban boa is also included on the European Endangered species Programme (EEP), a breeding programme coordinated by Prague Zoo. Bristol Zoo Gardens has successfully bred the Cuban boa for 20 years (7).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

Find out more about the Cuban boa:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Arboreal
An animal which lives or spends a large amount of time in trees.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Gestation
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. CITES (November, 2011)
    http://www.cites.org/
  3. O’Shea, M. (2007) Boas and Pythons of the World. New Holland Publishers, London.
  4. Wagner, D. (1996) Boas. Barron’s Educational Series, New York.
  5. Allen, G.M. (1967) Bats: Biology, Behaviour and Folklore. Dover Publications, Mineola, New York.
  6. Roots, C. (2006) Nocturnal Animals. Greenwood Publishing Group, Connecticut.
  7. Bristol Zoo (May, 2011)
    http://www.bristolzoo.org.uk/cuban-boa
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Image credit

Cuban boa flicking its tongue  
Cuban boa flicking its tongue

© Chris Mattison / www.flpa-images.co.uk

FLPA - images of nature
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