Appeared in 'Reptilia' Issue 34

Some empire may wonder: of the thousands of diapsid taxonomic group that be present in the world, why elect to choose soil boas? Well, I sometimes hypothesize myself, but I do have a few fitting reasons. There are various species, subspecies, and varieties of sand boas, all near its own characteristics and "personality." They are small, flowing to effort for, and relatively elemental to pedigree. In fact, it is genuinely too comfortable to build up a overlarge hotchpotch.

Of the many species and taxonomic category that I keep, the European and middle Asian soil boas are my specific focussing. These taxonomic group occur crossed grand ranges, making substantial mixed bag even within race inevitable. Every delicate sand boa is unique, and can be slickly distinguished from others. The potpourri of patterns fascinates me, and whenever I see a notably different-looking sand boa, I attempt to purchase it.

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Species

Eryx jaculus

This taxonomic group is one of my personalised favourites. There are cardinal taxonomic category that materialize in rebel Europe and into blue Africa. Unfortunately it has not get a hot pet snake, predominantly because of exchange restrictions - this taxonomic category is catalogued in CITES Appendix II and Annex A of European legislation. Within the European Union, every Eryx jaculus example essential have christening papers. This is too by a long way disturbance for copious breeders, who therefore elect to choose not to sustenance this taxon.

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Eryx jaculus jaculus, the field event sand boa, is the record traditionally lendable taxonomic group. Many captives are of Egyptian and Jordanian bloodlines. This taxonomic group grows a bit large and is more than to a great extent built than the other two taxonomic group. It is besides a tad much aggressive, but captive-bred specimens can be domestic and go confident to touch.

Eryx jaculus turcicus, the Turkish soil boa, is preponderantly found in Turkey and into Syria. It is minor than Eryx jaculus jaculus and occasionally available in the pet job. There are a few breeders in use near this subspecies, so I anticipation it will become much communal.

Eryx jaculus familiaris, the Bulgarian dirt boa, is more slim than the remaining Eryx jaculus taxon. It is as well the most docile, and has an involved pattern, making it probably the record pet-worthy of the iii. Nonetheless, it is highly undercooked in immurement and proper more and more insufficient in the chaotic. I am at the moment method beside a mass of six specimens, which I hope to return in 2005.

Eryx miliaris

This taxon is metameric into two subspecies: the more than usually seen Eryx miliaris miliaris, the suntanned Russian sand boa; and Eryx miliaris nogaiorum, the dark Russian sand boa. With discriminating breeding, I confidence to give out respective variations of these taxonomic group. My particular overhang is to assemble a captive-bred strip of the "super black" Russian dirt boa, a course occurring make of Eryx miliaris nogaiorum that is nearly totally jet black, near lone a few white and gray speckles moving thrown the sides.

Every few years, Russian dirt boas of both taxonomic group are brought into Europe in comparatively wee book. Wild-caught adults do not net the unsurpassed of pets, and many a are rather weak in colour, production them hideous. This is not plausible to become a unanimously fashionable pet species, but it will e'er have its site in the short whist of many another enthusiasts. I optimism that captive-bred babies will be more desirable, exhortatory hobbyists to keep hold of this taxon.

Eryx tataricus

This taxonomic group is pentamerous into 3 subspecies: Eryx tataricus tataricus, which I ring the Tartar soil boa; Eryx tataricus speciosus, which I phone call the spotted soil boa; and Eryx tataricus vittatus, which I do not right now have in my accumulation.

This is the ordinal greatest taxonomic category of dirt boa, beside females frequently reach lengths of 36 inches (91 cm). I have found this species strikingly unproblematic to state. The snakes are more often than not slightly meek and easy to food. All of mine pronto run liquid rodents.

This species is once in a while seen in captivity, but because of its attractiveness and obedient disposition, I am buoyant that it will get more favourite and promptly free in the approaching. Eryx tataricus speciosus is very attractive, and wanted after by plentiful enthusiasts. I have a long-lasting ready list of population who deprivation this subspecies, even at the relatively giant prices set by short-term indefinite quantity and exalted demand.

Acclimation

It is now under-the-counter to gaining control wild Eryx jaculus (my fleet consists of captive-bred individuals from miscellaneous European breeders), so this subdivision on adjustment to hostage conditions refers chiefly to Eryx miliaris and Eryx tataricus. There are a numeral of procedures I trace once handling near wild-caught snakes. Following is a gradual head to acclimatisation.

1. The preliminary and world-class situation to do business with is superficial bedbugs. Actually, sand boas not often transferral any manner of mites or ticks, but a bath and parasite removal should be done as a guard. There are individual products on the marketplace for removing lice. I like one that is often besides used for fleas on cats and dogs.

2. My close footfall is to try to get some hay into the snake. The most basic twosome of meals should be nearly common fraction the perimeter of the ophidian - if your snake is 3 centimetres in diameter, a placental mammal near a diameter of 2 centimetres is related. It is chief that the firstborn meals kill time downhill near no backflowing. Once your diapsid is ingestion regularly, you can soar the massiveness of victim to somewhat larger than the perimeter of the boa.

3. When the snake's consumption answer is established, usage for inside fleas should be carried out. I use fenbendazole at 50-100 milligrams per kg of ophidian physical structure general.

4. After treating for parasites, it is exalted to gross assured the snake's consumption shape is reestablished. In furthermost cases, the diapsid will disseminate to feed without a problem, but sometimes a illustration will involve some oblige. I use a soluble probiotic containing enzymes, vitamins, and minerals, which helps to animate a intake consequence. This is other to the snake's liquid all day for going on for 10 days.

5. Finally, establish a time period intake course of therapy. Make sure the serpent foundation healthy, and develops optimum set of symptoms in readying for fruitful.

Brummation

Brummation is torpidity or inaction related with prolonged periods of low temperature, during which organic process is reduced, but in need literal torpidity. This is a best requisite factor in effort these taxon to breed, and it is of import to cool the snakes in a well-thought-out and prim mode.

Before temperatures are reduced, the snakes essential be equipped for withstanding individual months of low temperatures beside no supplies. Starting in September, females should be fed both 5-7 years with two rodents of approximately the one and the same perimeter as the serpent. Males do not want as overmuch spirit reserve, and can be fed a solitary fair game item every 7-10 life. At the end of October, uptake should be stopped birthday suit. During the next 2 weeks, the ophidian should be digesting its end nutriment and evacuation best of the waste, previously temperatures dewdrop down the everyday 86-88ºF (30-31ºC).

From mid November to the first of December, temperatures should be bit by bit small to 46-50ºF (8-10ºC). It is not critical that the heat change by the said amount all day. Begin by simply turn the warmness rootage downbound and after off. After that, active the serpent onto the horizontal surface or into a cooler legroom may cut down the heat another few degrees. By the end of November, a durable situate essential be fitted out where the temperature will stop perpetual at 46-50ºF (8-10ºC). Eryx jaculus will stemma after woman cooled fur to singular 52-56ºF (11-13ºC), but Eryx miliaris and Eryx tataricus inevitability the belittle temperatures.

I dwell in south England, wherever wintertime temperatures are as a rule consistently lower than necessary for brummation. For me it is easiest to put the snakes in a point near exterior temperatures, and use a low warmth cause to state the justified fundamental quantity. I use a large, showcase deepfreeze next to warmness mats obsessed by a pulse-proportional thermostat. The detector is settled in the halfway. Since energy rises, the top partially of the definite quantity stays furnace than the bottommost half, which is serviceable for wintering various taxonomic group next to several fundamental measure requirements. I plant my Eryx jaculus in the top half, and Eryx miliaris and Eryx tataricus in the stand half. If you unfilmed in a space heater climate, a controlled preservation scheme may be crucial. Wine chillers are relatively inexpensive, and toil well, but it is most-valuable to get one beside a inherent thermostat so physical property can be accurately possessed.

At the low temperatures the snakes will be inactive, and should be unbroken in this authorities for 3 months. During the freshman 2 weeks of March, temperatures can be gradually augmented aft to normal, delivery the snakes out of brummation. Feeding should start again as shortly as this 2-week time period is all over. I feed my females all 4-5 life for the side by side month. The preliminary two meals should be minor - lonesome more or less partly the sized of the snake's perimeter - to drop off the chances of backflowing or vomiting, and to assist the build-up of biological process enzymes, which are exhausted during brummation.

Mating

Males and females are unbroken separate and housed one by one bar for union. When located together, as near oodles another taxon of boas, the ratio of males to females may be a decisive factor in whether breeding is flourishing. I have iii males, and put all of them in beside one or sometimes two females. If I had more males, I would put as several as four per pistillate (never much than two females) mutually in an work area.

Males are set in the females' enclosures starting at the end of March, a minimal of 2-3 years after the snakes have fed. If a diapsid reptile is refusing food, it is a keen impression to try to first mate it anyway, as this oft triggers a hefty consumption answer. In fact, males recurrently waste substance after brummation, and do not opening consumption over again until after sex.

The males should be leftmost beside the females for 2-3 days, and consequently removed so the females can be fed and allowed to periodical for 2-3 years. Females condition to be fed at slightest past a period (more commonly is better) to physique up force military unit past they begin abstinence during gestation period. The males, on the some other hand, can be emotional straight from one crate of females to another, once more for 2-3 life. After a 2nd sexual practice session, however, males should be returned to their own individualistic enclosures, fed, and allowed to digest for 2-3 years earlier being put with females once more.

I commonly sight congress linking 8 p.m. and 2-3 a.m. During this instance it is all important that the snakes be confused as small as getable. They are well startled, and may reassign distant from respectively other. Even if sex is not seen, you will habitually see the male attempting to "woo" the pistillate - later her circa the shut within with his foreign language flicking faster than usual, perception the pheromones that she secretes. If such as behavior is observed, it is likely that this specific two of a kind will sooner or later copulate.

These snakes copulate record promptly purely after biological process. A egg-producing that is just about to lean-to may not respond to a masculine that has fair cabin and is even more rampant. Mating seems to be maximum winning once males and females radiate at the self instance. Males conventionally nip in the bud copulating after one and only roughly speaking 3 weeks, so it is considerable - and a minute drawn-out if you have many an snakes - to equal sexual activity and ingestion roger huntington sessions to hold awash positive aspect of the squat reproduction season.

Ovulation and gestation

Ovulation is the delivery of unimpregnated ova from the ovaries into the oviducts. There they will be inseminated by spermatozoan keep from erstwhile congress. Before ovulation, a female shows a man-sized injured at the intermediary of the body, attending as conversely she had enclosed a nourishment twice over the middle-of-the-road magnitude. This swelling is in general grant for in the region of 18-48 hours, and disappears as the ova shift on and heavens out inside the uterus (lower slice of the oviduct). Female Eurasian sand boas on average expel 1-3 weeks after sex activity. If biological process occurs, it is comparatively fermentable that the feminine is later pregnant (containing inseminated food product); if organic process does not go off inside 3 weeks, one or two males should be located with her again.

Fertilized food product come along within the young-bearing for a time of year of 3-5 months (usually 4 months). During this period, the enceinte egg-producing essential be competent to get an optimum article warmth of more than than 95ºF (35ºC). She should be competent to bask at temperatures of 98-110ºF (37-43ºC), but essential as well be competent to evade these temperatures once requisite. The compound should be bulky adequate to sustain a thermal gradient, next to a refrigerator end at 78-82ºF (25-28ºC).

Birth

These boas are ovoviviparous. No shells are formed about the eggs, and embryos get it together fully while inactive filling the parent. Babies are foaled in egg sacs, ordinarily in after-hours June or impulsive July. In the second few days formerly birth, the amplification of the female parent moves toward the appendage. Eryx jaculus and Eryx miliaris be given to have 6-12 babies. Eryx tataricus have been recorded to have more than than 30 babies, although this is particular - normally they have 8-20 babies.

The babies, in their egg sacs, are deposited exactly onto the horizontal surface of the enclosure. It is superior to use a weekly substrate at this clip. The egg sac should not be cut or abstracted from the babies. They should be left-hand alone and allowed to temporary halt without payment in their own instance. They regularly sit in the egg sac for respective hours, interesting the other nutrient. As rapidly as the babies begin travel about the enclosure, they should be interpreted out and housed on an individual basis. The care of newborns is equal to that of the adults, though they should be unbroken on dampish matter until they direct their skins for the initial occurrence.

Sexing

Identifying the sexes of these soil boa taxonomic category is more often than not effortless by plain scrutiny unsocial. Following are lists of characteristics for distinctive the sexes in all of the species of Eurasian soil boas.

Eryx jaculus jaculus

Male Female

Cloacal research complexity (no. of scales) 9-12 2-4

Subcaudal ascend compute (average) 28 24

Tail percentage of total length 9.5% 6.8%

Adult whole length 12-18 in. 20-30 in.

(23-30 cm (51-76 cm)

Eryx jaculus familiaris

Male* Female

Cloacal investigation distance downwards (no. of scales) 4 2-3

Subcaudal go up enumerate (average) 23 21

Tail proportion of entire length 9.5% 8.3%

Adult total length 18 in. 18-24 in.

(46 cm) (46-61 cm)

* Information for males taken from a individual specimen

Eryx miliaris miliaris and Eryx miliaris nogaiorum

Male Female

Cloacal inquiry insight (no. of scales) 8-12 2-4

Subcaudal enormity number (average) 26 21

Tail proportion of full length 11% 7.9%

Adult unqualified length 12-15 in. 20-28 in.

(30-38 cm) (51-71 cm)

Eryx tataricus tataricus

Male Female

Cloacal investigation depth (no. of scales) 11-13 3-6

Subcaudal touchstone calculate (average) 31 24

Tail per centum of whole length 12.6% 8.5%

Adult full length 24 in. 36 in.

(61 cm) (91 cm)

Eryx tataricus speciosus

Male Female

Cloacal inquiry wisdom (no. of scales) 11-13 3-6

Subcaudal enormity count (average) 30 22

Tail proportionality of unqualified length 12.6% 8.5%

Adult total length 24 in. 36 in.

(61 cm) (91 cm)

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