Madagascar Tree Boa Fact File
The Madagascan tree boa or Malagasy tree boa is a species of non-venomous snake which is found only on the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa.
These reptiles are carnivores which hunt at night primarily for small mammals.
Females give birth to live young which hatched from the eggs they incubated in, inside her body. During the incubation period her skin darkens to provide additional heat for this process.
This species is considered common but hunting for food and the wildlife trade are small threats faced by the species.
Read on to learn more about these rad reptiles.
Madagascan tree boas are covered by scales. These are primarily used to reduce water loss when they are basking in the sun.
Both males and females are colored green-brown patterned with dark patches that have white and yellow at their center.
An average Madagascan tree boa will measure up to 1.6m (5.2ft) long with a weight of 1.5-4kg (3.3-8.8lbs). Larger specimens are often reported but these have not been verified. Females tend to be larger than males.
As a boa they are non venomous and as such must instead squeeze prey to subdue it. Prey is held by the teeth when they complete this.
At night they will sit camouflaged among leaves and wait for food to come to them.
To help find warm blooded prey in the dark they have heat sensing pits on either side of the face.
Madagascar is the native home of the Madagascan tree boa. Here they are widespread across much of the island.
The Madagascan tree boa is found in humid forests. With human expansion they have shown an ability to persist in plantations or near human development.
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Prior to the breeding season males will battle for mating rights with the females. These battles see two males intertwine their bodies and then try to push their opponent to the ground.
Mating takes place during the rainy season.
The winner gains the right to mate with the female. Once a female becomes pregnant her body color begins to darken. This adaptation helps her to absorb extra heat to support the development of the young.
Within five to eight months the female will give birth. Females give birth to live young with each clutch producing between 1 and 19 young. The young develop within an egg inside the mothers body before hatching and then being born live.
At birth the young are colored scarlet with dark markings with an average length of 38cm (15in) long. This is thought to act as a warning against predators and also gives them camouflage within the flowers at the tops of the trees they inhabit.
Juveniles spend more of their time in the trees an adaptation to help avoid predators.
Sexual maturity is reached between one and two years old.
During the day the Madagascan tree boa is primarily found in the trees but at night the come to the ground where they feed. Despite being called a tree boa they are primarily found on the ground.
As an ectotherm the Madagascar tree boa must sit in the sun and absorb heat.
Throughout their life the Madagascar tree boa will grow by shedding its skin. A new, fresh skin is then waiting underneath. Their growth rate will slow as they become older.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the Madagascan tree boa include the fossa, birds of prey and larger snakes.
The population of the Madagascan tree boa is believed to be stable and this species is frequently encountered.
No major threats have been identified and they have shown the ability to persist in areas of cleared forest. Small numbers are smuggled from Madagascar to fuel demand from the international pet trade.
In parts of their range they are hunted for food or to be turned in to leather which is used for bags and shoes.
This species is also known as the Malagasy tree boa.
Two subspecies of the Madagascan tree boa are recognized, one from the east side of the island and the other on the west.
Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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