Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The rosy boa is a secretive (1), burrowing snake, which spends the majority of its time hidden beneath rocks and in crevices (5) (7), particularly during periods of extreme heat (2), and during winter in the colder parts of its range when it hibernates (5). Most activity takes place during the night (7), when it moves slowly across the ground, sometimes climbing into low shrubs (2). Like other snakes in the Boidae family, the rosy boa is a powerful constrictor, making it a formidable predator. When its prey (a small mammal, bird or lizard), is within range, the rosy boa strikes out in a sudden, explosive motion (2). Grabbing the prey with its backward-curved teeth, the rosy boa quickly coils its muscular body around the animal and squeezes until its prey either suffocates, or its heart is too restricted to pump blood (2) (5). When the prey is dead, the rosy boa proceeds to swallow its victim whole (2). Despite the deadly predatory skills of the rosy boa, this snake is still a desired prey item for a number of other animals, including owls, coyotes and kit foxes (7). It does, however, have a tactic it employs to try and avoid being the victim. When attacked by a predator, it will roll up into a ball, with its head in the centre. The blunt tail is thought to be a way of luring predators into attacking the wrong end of the snake (4), and also deters predators by releasing a foul-smelling musk from glands near the base of the tail (2). The rosy boa mates in May and June, with between six and ten live young being born after a 130 day gestation period, around October and November (2). This snake is estimated to live for between 15 and 22 years (2).
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Description

The rosy boa is an attractive snake, usually noted for its pattern of three wide, black, brown, reddish-brown or orange stripes that run along the body (4) (5). The exact colouration varies between the four recognised subspecies: the coastal rosy boa (Charina trivirgata roseofusca), the desert rosy boa (Charina trivirgata gracia), the mid-Baja rosy boa (Charina trivirgata saslowi) and the Mexican rosy boa (Charina trivirgata trivirgata) (6). The coastal rosy boa generally has pale rose, deep tan or orange uneven stripes with almost ragged edges against a grey background. The desert rosy boa also has a grey background, but with brown to russet stripes (6). The mid-Baja rosy boa has well-defined orange to russet stripes against a steal grey colour, while the Mexican rosy boa, the darkest of the four races, has chocolate to nearly black stripes that contrast greatly with the cream to pale tan background (6). The body of the rosy boa is covered with smooth, shiny scales, and the eyes are small, with vertical pupils (2). The head is slightly larger than the neck, and the fairly long, thick tail comes to a blunt point. Two small claw-like spurs at the base of the tail are vestigial legs, a feature retained from its lizard ancestor (2).
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Distribution

Rosy boas occur in the southwestern United States and in adjacent areas of Mexico, specifically from Hanaupah Canyon (Death Valley area) in California south through Baja California, southwestern Arizona, and western Sonora, Mexico.

Three subspecies are traditionally recognized: Lichanura t. gracia, desert rosy boas (found from southern California to southwestern Arizona to northeastern Baja California), L.t. roseofusca, coastal rosy boas (found from coastal southwestern California into northern Baja California), and L.t. trivirgata, Mexican rosy boas (found from the extreme southwestern corner of Arizona into western Sonora, Mexico and southern Baja California). These subspecies designations have been repeatedly challenged. Spiteri (1991) decided that the two "subspecies" in California interbreed so freely that they could be lumped into a new subspecies, L. t. myriolepis. This designation has not been widely used. Wood et. al (2008) analyzed mitochondrial DNA in rosy boas across their range and suggested that two evolutionary species could be provisionally recognized: Charina trivirgata would encompass most of the USA portion of the ranges of L. t. gracia and L. t. roseofusca. Charina trivirgata would occur in southern San Diego County, California, extreme SW Arizona south of the Gila River, and through the Baja peninsula and NW Sonora, Mexico. Additional genetic and morphological studies may confirm or refute this arrangement.

Kluge (1993) placed rosy boas into the genus Charina along with rubber boas, Charina bottae due to shared characters; however, this arrangement has been questioned, and most recent checklists retain rosy boas in the genus Lichanura 

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Bartlett, R., A. Tennant. 2000. Snakes of North America: Western Region. Houston, Texas: Gulf Publishing Co..
  • Californiaherps.com, 2008. "California Reptiles and Amphibians" (On-line). Accessed December 17, 2008 at http://www.californiaherps.com/index.html.
  • Crother, B., et al.. 2008. Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence In Our Understanding. St. Louis: Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.
  • Ernst, C., E. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Washington and London: SMITHSONIAN BOOKS.
  • Kluge, A. 1993. Calabaria and the phylogeny of erycine boas. Zool. J. Linn. Soc., 107: 293-351.
  • Spiteri, D. 1991. The subspecies of Lichanura trivirgata. Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society, Vol. 26: 153-156.
  • Wood, D., R. Fisher, T. Reeder. 2008. Novel patterns of historical isolation, dispersal, and secondary contact across Baja California in the Rosy Boa (Lichanura trtivirgata). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Vol. 46: 484-502.
  • rosyboa.com, 2008. "rosyboa.com: basking site for rosy boa enthusiasts" (On-line). Accessed December 17, 2008 at http://www.rosyboa.com/index.htm.
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Range Description

This species occurs in southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Its range extends from southern California and western and southern Arizona, south to the tip of Baja California and to southern Sonora, Mexico, including some islands along the Pacific Coast of Baja California (including Cedros) and in the Gulf of California (including Angel de la Guardia and Tiburón). It occurs at elevations from sea level to 2,070 m (Yingling 1982, Grismer 2002, Stebbins 2003).
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: Range extends from extreme southern San Diego County, California, within the Tijuana River and Otay watersheds, southward throughout the Baja California peninsula, including some islands along the Pacific Coast of Baja California and in the Gulf of California; range also includes northwestern Mexico (in the state of Sonora) and western Arizona (throughout isolated mountain ranges south of the Gila River in Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties (Wood et al. 2008). Elevational range extends from sea level to 2,070 meters (6,790 feet) (Yingling 1982, Grismer 2002, Stebbins 2003).

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Continent: Middle-America North-America
Distribution: USA (S California, SW Arizona),  Mexico (Baja California, W Sonora)  orcutti: USA (California: San Diego County in California along the coastal Peninsular Ranges, northward into the Mojave Desert and eastward in the Sonoran Desert of California and Arizona; Arizona: areas north of the Gila River, except for individuals inhabiting the Gila Mountains.)  
Type locality: Cape San Lucas, Baja California
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Range

The rosy boa occurs in the south-western United States and north-western Mexico (1), where the four subspecies differ in their distribution. The coastal rosy boa ranges from south-eastern California to north-western Baja California, while the desert rosy boa is found from south central California to central western Arizona. The mid-Baja rosy boa is found, as its name suggests, in central and southern Baja California, and the Mexican rosy boa inhabits north-western Sonora, south central Arizona, Baja California, and Isla Cedros, located off the west coast of Baja California (6).
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Global Range: Range extends north of the United States-Mexico border within San Diego County in California along the coastal Peninsular Ranges, and northward into the Mohave Desert and eastward in the Sonoran Desert of California and western Arizona; in Arizona, this species inhabits areas north of the Gila River, except for individuals inhabiting the Gila Mountains (Wood et al. 2008).

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Physical Description

Morphology

Rosy boas are one of the smaller members of the family Boidae. Adults range in total length from 43 to 112 cm (17 inches to 44 inches). These are fairly heavy-bodied snakes with smooth scales. The tail is short, tapered, and slightly prehensile, with a blunt tip. The head shape is elongated, slightly broader then the neck and covered dorsally with small scales. The pupil is vertically elliptical. The dorsal scales are smooth, pitless, and occur in 33 to 49 rows in populations north of Mexico. Rosy boas have between 216 and 245 ventral scutes, 38 to 52 undivided subcaudals, and an undivided anal plate. There are no chin shields. In the mouth, each maxilla has 14 to 20 (mean 17) teeth. Male rosy boas tend to be smaller than females, have more prominent anal spurs, and tails averaging 14% of total body length. Females are larger, have shorter, less conspicuous anal spurs that barely break the skin's surface, and the tail averages 13% of total length.

The normal color pattern presents as three dark stripes against a lighter background. The stripes can be sharply defined or have irregular edges, and range from black or brown to reddish-brown, orangish, or rose in color. The background color ranges from gray, bluish-gray or tan to yellow, cream, or white. Spots of darker pigment may invade the lighter background in some local variants. Occasional specimens are unicolored and lack obvious striping. The chin, throat and venter ranges from cream to grayish white. The named subspecies have been defined by trends in coloration. Desert rosy boas tend to have well-defined stripes and lighter background color. Coastal forms are darker overall with less well-definded stripes, and Mexican rosy boas often have dark brown, sharp-edged stripes on a cream or yellowish background. However, much intergradation and variation occurs both between and within subspecies ranges. The name "rosy" was apparently derived from the pinkish ventral color of some specimens from the Baja peninsula; since this is atypical for the species, the more logical common name "three-lined boa" has been suggested.

Rubber boas (Charina bottae) are sympatric with rosy boas in parts of Southern California and might be confused with some of the more heavily pigmented rosy boas. Rubber Boas differ in having enlarged scales on the head and tend to be uniformly colored, without trace of striping.

Range length: 43 to 112 cm.

Average length: 76 cm.

Other Physical Features: heterothermic

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

  • Brennan, T., A. Holycross. 2006. A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona. Phoenix: Arizona Game and Fish Department.
  • Stebbins, R. 2003. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians (Third Edition). New York: Houghton Mifflin.
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Size

Length: 107 cm

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Type Information

Holotype for Charina trivirgata
Catalog Number: USNM 15503
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1889
Locality: Colorado Desert, San Diego, California, United States, North America
  • Holotype: Stejneger, L. 1889. West American Scientist. 6 (46): 140.
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Holotype for Charina trivirgata
Catalog Number: USNM 13810
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1884
Locality: San Diego, California, United States, North America
  • Holotype: Stejneger, L. 1890. Proc. U. S. Nat. Mus. 12: 97.
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Syntype for Charina trivirgata
Catalog Number: USNM 15502
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1859
Locality: Cape San Lucas (= Cabo San Lucas), Baja California Sur, Mexico
  • Syntype: Cope, E. D. 1861. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 13: 304.
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Ecology

Habitat

California Coastal Sage and Chaparral Habitat

This taxon is found in the California coastal sage and chaparral ecoregion, located along the southern coast of California and Pacific coast of Baja California, has extremely high levels of species diversity and endemism. The eight Channel Islands are also part of this ecoregion, as are Isla Guadalupe and Isla Cedros. The climate is Mediterranean, with cold wet winters and dry hot summers. Precipitation levels range between 150 to 500 millimeters per annum. Vegetation typically grows on soils made of volcanic rocks on the base of the San Pedro Martir Mountains and on soils of sedimentary origin closer to the coastal zone.

The California coastal sage and chaparral supports a diversity of habitats including montane conifer forests, Torrey pine woodland, cypress woodlands, southern walnut woodlands, oak woodlands, riparian woodlands, chamise chaparral, inland and coastal sage scrub, grasslands, vernal pools, and freshwater and salt marshes. Coastal sage scrub, chamise chaparral, and oak woodlands dominate much of the landscape. Coastal sage scrub is a diverse and globally rare habitat type occurring in coastal terraces and foothills at elevations below 1000 meters (m), interspersed with chamise chaparral, oak woodland, grasslands, and salt marsh. This habitat type is characterized by low, aromatic and drought-deciduous shrublands of Black Sage (Salvia mellifera), White Sage (Salvia apiana), Munz’s Sage (Salvia munzii), California Sage (Artemisia californica), California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), California Brittlebush (Encelia californica), Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), Lemonade Berry (Rhus integrifolia), and a diverse assemblage of other shrubs, herbaceous plants, cacti and succulents. Opuntia, Yucca, and Dudleya are some of the most common succulent genera, with the latter represented by several species endemic to the ecoregion.

The Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis), and Santa Catalina Shrew (Sorex willetti) are endemic mammals found in the ecoregion. Some of the specialist mammalian species found in the California sage and chaparral are: San Diego Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus fallax), Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami), and Stephens's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys stephensi).

The Rosy Boa (Charina trivirgata), California Legless Lizard (Anniella pulchra), and several relict salamanders are examples of the unusual and distinctive herpetofauna. Some endemic reptile species found in the ecoregion are: San Clemente Night Lizard (Xantusia riversiana), found only on the Channel Islands; Red-diamond Rattlesnake (Crotalus ruber), San Diego Banded Gecko (Coleonyx variegatus abbotti), and Coast Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma blainvillii).

Nutall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii) is endemic to the California sage and chaparral ecoregion, as are several endemic subspecies, which occur in the Channel Islands. Virtually all of the ecoregion is included in the California Endemic Bird Area. The California Gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica) is a further relict species found in the ecoregion.  The coastal populations of the Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) are a notable occurrence of this bird, which is usually found in more arid regions.

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Rosy boas live in dry shrublands, desert, and near-desert areas. They are found among scattered rocks and boulders or on talus slopes. Preferred habitat is often on south-facing hillsides at elevations from sea level to over 2,000 meters. Rosy boas are rarely found far from rock cover. They seem to prefer habitats near free water, such as canyon or desert streams, but are not restricted to such areas.

Range elevation: 0 to 2000 m.

Habitat Regions: terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; chaparral ; scrub forest ; mountains

Aquatic Biomes: coastal

Other Habitat Features: caves

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The species' habitats are diverse and include desert, arid scrub, brushland, sandy plains, rocky slopes, and chaparral-covered foothills, particularly where moisture is available, as around springs, streams, and canyon floors (but these snakes are not dependent on permanent water). This is a mainly terrestrial species, but it sometimes climbs into shrubs.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Habitat Type: Terrestrial

Comments: Habitats are diverse and include desert, arid scrub, brushland, sandy plains, rocky slopes, and chaparral-covered foothills, particularly where moisture is available, as around springs, streams, and canyon floors (but these snakes are not dependent on permanent water). This is a mainly terrestrial species, but it sometimes climbs into shrubs.

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Habitat Type: Terrestrial

Comments: Habitats are diverse and include desert, arid scrub, brushland, sandy plains, rocky slopes, and chaparral-covered foothills, particularly where moisture is available, as around springs, streams, and canyon floors (but these snakes are not dependent on permanent water). This is a mainly terrestrial species, but it sometimes climbs into shrubs.

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The rosy boa can be found in a wide range of habitats, including desert, scrubland, sandy plains, and rocky slopes, from sea level up to an elevation of 2,070 metres (1). It is typically found in areas where there is sufficient vegetation and rocky cover to provide shelter (7), and although not dependent on permanent water, it is often found around springs and streams (1), as this attracts the birds and small mammals on which it feeds (4).
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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Available information from coastal California and Arizona indicates that movements tend to be limited, and home ranges average less than 2 ha (see Diffendorfer et al. 2004).

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Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Rosy boas eat rodents, nestling birds, bats, lizards, amphibians, and other snakes. The majority of the diet consists of small mammals such as kangaroo rats, deer mice, wood rats, and baby rabbits.  Rosy boas may slowly stalk their prey or ambush it from a hidden location. The prey animal is struck with great accuracy, then the snake's recurved teeth hold it securely while several body coils are wrapped around it, and it is then constricted. Once the captured prey is dead or incapacitated, the boa slowly releases the carcass by unwrapping its body and swallows the prey head first. Two prey animals can be constricted at a time, and one prey item can be consumed while another is still held in a body coil.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)

  • Bartlett, R. 2006. The 25 Best Reptile and Amphibian Pets. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's.
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Comments: Diet includes mainly small mammals and birds.

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Comments: Diet includes mainly small mammals and birds.

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Associations

Rosy boas are predators that eat mainly nestling rodents in arid and semi-arid habitats. They undoubtedly serve as hosts for various parasites, but these are unreported in wild snakes.

Ecosystem Impact: keystone species

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Rosy boas are undoubtedly killed and eaten by numerous predators, but no reports of predation in nature were found. Potential predators known to eat other snake species include carnivorous mammals (such as raccoons, ringtails, weasels, skunks, and coyotes), birds (hawks, shrikes), and other snakes, such as king snakes (Lampropeltis). Anti-predator behaviors in this snake include hiding the head in body coils, releasing a musky smelling substance from the cloaca, and biting. These snakes are usually rather docile and are not considered aggressive towards human handlers.

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300

Comments: This species is represented by a large number of occurrnces (subpopulations and locations). Yingling (1982) mapped some of them.

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Global Abundance

10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Total adult population size of this secretive snake is unknown but surely exceeds 10,000. This snake is common along the western slopes of the Sierra San Pedro Martir in Baja California (Welsh 1988).

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Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Rosy boas, like all snakes, make good use of the vomeronasal (Jacobson's) organ for chemosensory input, facilitated by the extensible tongue. They also have appear to have good visual acuity, at least for close distances. Observations of courting animals suggests the use of chemical, tactile, and visual cues.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

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Cyclicity

Comments: Snakes are inactive in cold temperatures and extreme heat. This species is usually most active at night.

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Comments: Snakes are inactive in cold temperatures and extreme heat. This species is usually most active at night.

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Life Cycle

The newborn young, from 18 to 36 cm long, are basically miniatures of the adults in shape and color pattern, though they may have more contrasting patterns (darker striping on lighter backgrounds) than their parents. Sex determination is genetic.

Development - Life Cycle: indeterminate growth

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Life Expectancy

The average and maximum lifespan of rosy boas in the wild is unknown. Average lifespan for captive specimens ranges from 18 to 22 years, although some have been documented to live over 30 years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
30 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: captivity:
15 to 30 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
18 years.

  • Slavens, F., K. Slavens. 1999. Reptiles and Amphibians in Captivity: Breeding—Longevity and Inventory. Seattle, WA: Slaveware.
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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 31 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Territorial behavior and male competition or fighting in wild rosy boas has apparently not been described. In courtship the male flicks his tongue over the female's body, and the female may tongue-flick the male in return. The male then slowly crawls over the female and strokes her posterior sides with erected anal spurs. If receptive, the female will turn her body to one side and elevate her tail. This allows the male to insert a hemipenis into her cloaca for fertilization.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Courtship and mating occur from May through July and gestation requires 103 to 143 days. This is a viviparous species; females incubate fertilized eggs within their bodies and then give birth to live, independent young between August and November. Litters average 3 to 8 young, with a range of 1 to 14. Males apparently reach sexual maturity at 2 to 3 years of age, at a total length of 43 to 58 cm; females also mature in 2 or 3 years, at a length of about 60 cm.

Breeding interval: Females in the wild may breed only every other year; breeding frequency may depend on food supply and physical condition.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs from spring to early summer.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 14.

Average number of offspring: 5-8.

Range gestation period: 103 to 143 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 to 3 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 to 3 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; sexual ; fertilization ; ovoviviparous

A female rosy boa must acquire and store sufficient energy to provision her eggs (mostly in yolk) and then carry the developing embryos to birth. Once the young are born they are independent immediately, and the female's investment in that brood is over.

Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Ernst, C., E. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Washington and London: SMITHSONIAN BOOKS.
  • rosyboa.com, 2008. "rosyboa.com: basking site for rosy boa enthusiasts" (On-line). Accessed December 17, 2008 at http://www.rosyboa.com/index.htm.
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Live-bearing..

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Live-bearing.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Lichanura trivirgata

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

The Bureau of Land Management in the State of California has this species listed as "sensitive" status (2008). Otherwise, populations are considered stable.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2007

Assessor/s
Hammerson, G.A., Frost, D.R. & Gadsden, H.

Reviewer/s
Cox, N., Chanson, J.S. & Stuart, S.N. (Global Reptile Assessment Coordinating Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, tolerance of a broad range of habitats, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

Reasons: Somewhat restricted range in southwestern North America; more than 100 occurrences; due to remoteness of habitat probably not greatly threatened rangewide, however, very threatened in some areas by overcollecting and highway mortality; highly sought after by collectors but somewhat resistant because difficult to find.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

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Status

Assessed as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
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Population

Population
This species is represented by well over 100 occurrences or subpopulations (Yingling (1982) mapped some of them). The total adult population size of this secretive snake is unknown but surely exceeds 10,000. It is common along the western slopes of the Sierra San Pedro Martir in Baja California (Welsh 1988). Overall, the extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, and number of subpopulations are probably relatively stable. Local declines seem to have occurred in some sites that are readily accessible to collectors. For example, populations have been greatly reduced in the vicinity of Route 85 in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (Parizek et al. 1996). However, this snake is still abundant in many remote areas of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and presumably elsewhere within the range (Parizek et al. 1996). There is less information available on its abundance in Mexico.

Population Trend
Stable
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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: Overall, the extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, and number of subpopulations probably are relatively stable. Local declines seem to have occurred in some sites that are readily accessible to collectors. For example, populations have been greatly reduced in the vicinity of Route 85 in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (Parizek et al. 1996). However, this snake is still abundant in many remote areas of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and presumably elsewhere within the range (Parizek et al. 1996).

Global Long Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 30%

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Threats

Major Threats
Overall, this snake is not very threatened. It often occurs in inaccessible, rugged terrain that affords natural protection from grazing and development, and a great deal of suitable habitat is available. Some local populations are threatened by overcollecting and road mortality (Parizek et al. 1996). This is a popular species in the pet trade (but most are captive-bred), and collectors often target this snake; however, it is difficult to find and collect in quantity, and it is unlikely to be significantly threatened by over-collecting.
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Degree of Threat: Medium

Comments: Overall, this snake is not very threatened. It often occurs in inaccessible, rugged terrain that affords natural protection from grazing and development, and a great deal of suitable habitat is available. Some local populations are threatened by overcollecting and road mortality (Parizek et al. 1996). This is a popular species in the pet trade, and collectors often target this snake; however, it is difficult to find and collect in quantity.

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Comments: Overall, this snake probably is not very threatened. It often occurs in inaccessible, rugged terrain that affords natural protection from grazing and development, and a great deal of suitable habitat is available. Some local populations probably are threatened by overcollecting and road mortality. This is a popular species in the pet trade, and collectors often target this snake; however, it is difficult to find and collect in quantity.

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The rosy boa is not currently considered to be threatened with extinction, although certain populations may be negatively impacted by over-collection and road mortality (1). Its attractive patterning makes it a popular species in the pet trade and it is therefore a target for collectors. However, its secretive habits make it difficult species to find and collect in any great quantity, and most rosy boas in the pet trade are captive bred, and therefore do not pose a threat to the survival of this species in the wild (1). The fairly inaccessible and rugged habitat of the rosy boa also gives this species some natural protection from habitat degradation, in the form of grazing or development, which threatens the survival of many other species (1).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species occurs in several national parks and monuments, state parks, and other protected areas. It is listed on CITES Appendix II.
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Global Protection: Several (4-12) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: This species occurs in several protected areas.

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Conservation

The listing of the rosy boa on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) means that any international trade in this species should be carefully monitored, giving this species some protection from the threat of over-collection from the wild (3). Furthermore, in addition to the natural protection this species' rugged habitat affords, the rosy boa can also be found in a number of national parks and other protected areas (1).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no known adverse effects of rosy boas on humans or human interests. If handled they may bite, but these inconspicuous snakes certainly do not seek confrontation with people.

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Rosy boas may contribute to the control of rodent numbers but may not be sufficiently abundant to have a large impact. These boas are one of the most popular snakes in the pet trade due to their docile temperament, small size, low maintenance cost, and general ease of care. They have been collected throughout their range for the pet trade in the past, but these snakes are easily bred in captivity and most of the demand for these snakes can now be met by captive-bred animals.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; controls pest population

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Wikipedia

Rosy boa

The rosy boa (Lichanura trivirgata) is a snake of the Boidae family, one of only two members of that family native to the United States. The other is the rubber boa (Charina bottae). The rosy boa is native to the American Southwest, and Baja California and Sonora, Mexico.

Description[edit]

These small attractive snakes attain a length of 17-30 in (though some specimens from the coast of California reach 3-3.5 feet), and a large adult has a body width about the diameter of a golf ball. Coloration in rosy boas is highly variable. The common name is derived from the rosy or salmon coloration that is common on the belly of rosy boas originating from coastal southern California and Baja Mexico. Most rosy boas do not have this ventral coloration but instead have a series of dark to orange spots on a light-colored background.

Almost all rosy boas have at least some trace of three longitudinal stripes, one down the center of the back, and two on the lower sides. The appearance of these stripes varies widely, from extremely straight and having high contrast with the interspaces, to extremely broken with almost no contrast with the interspaces. Stripe colors can be orange, maroon, rust, brown, or black. Interspace colors can be shades of light to dark gray, yellow, or tan.

Geographic range[edit]

The rosy boa is found in the southwestern United States in the states of California and Arizona, and northwestern Mexico in the states of Baja California and Sonora. In California, the rosy boa ranges throughout the Colorado and Mojave deserts and also occupies the coastal areas of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Diego counties. In Arizona, the rosy boa occupies the Mojave Desert and the western areas of the Sonoran Desert. It is absent from the eastern and northern halves of the state. In Sonora, the rosy boa ranges from the border with the United States south throughout the Sonoran Desert to at least as far south as Ortiz. In Baja California, the rosy boa is almost ubiquitous ranging throughout the entire peninsula except in areas of extremely dry or rockless desert.

Behavior[edit]

Rosy boas spend most of their lives concealed beneath rocks and in crevices to escape the elements and natural predators. Granite outcroppings are the most common geologic association inhabited by the rosy boa. Less often they are found in association with volcanic or other rock types. Only in rare places do rosy boas inhabit rockless environments. In areas with few rocks rosy boas will use rodent burrows for concealment.

Rosy boa

Rosy boas' activity season follows local weather patterns; however, they are generally dormant during the winter, and active during the spring, summer and fall. Like all snakes, they are dependent on external temperatures to promote such normal bodily functions as digestion and gestation. Throughout most of their range the winter is too cold for these functions and the rosy boas go into a dormant state called brumation. The spring is breeding season for Rosy Boas, resulting in their highest rate of activity. Most Rosy Boas are encountered in spring as they leave the security of their rock piles and crevices to seek mates. Another reason rosy boas may be active on the surface of the ground is to find prey or new territory.

A rosy boa from Riverside, California, exhibiting its docile nature.

The surface activity of rosy boas can take place during any hour of the day, but during hot weather they are primarily nocturnal. In the spring, they are often abroad in the afternoon and early evening. In the late spring and summer, this activity period switches from dusk to late into the night. Because most populations of rosy boas live in exceedingly dry habitats, their activity is often highly moisture dependent. During dry periods they remain deep underground to assist in remaining hydrated. Recent rainfall often results in a flurry of surface activity.

These snakes forage mainly for small mammals but have occasionally been known to take other prey items such as birds and lizards. Pack rats, baby rabbits, deer mice, and kangaroo rats make up a large portion of their diet. Rosy boas are one of the slowest-moving species of snake in the world. They are unable to pursue prey and must either wait in ambush or stalk their meals. When a meal is within reach, usually a few inches, a rosy boa will strike with surprising speed and accuracy. Prey is secured with tiny rows of needle-sharp teeth, then suffocated through constriction.

Rosy boas are extremely docile when encountered by humans. When disturbed they usually roll into a compact ball with the head in the center.[2] The species is not prone to bite in defense, and when human bites have occurred they have usually been the result of a feeding response with a captive animal. All rosy boa bites are nonvenomous. Their extreme docility and their attractive coloration have made rosy boas very popular with herpetoculturists.

Reproduction[edit]

Rosy boas bear live young, about six in a brood, with newborns about 30 cm (12 in.) in length.[2]

Taxonomy[edit]

The epithet trivirgata refers to the distinct three stripes that are characteristic of the species. The rosy boa is considered to be the only species within the genus Lichanura, but one researcher has placed it in the genus Charina with the rubber boa. Newer phylogenetic research supports the original arrangement but herpetologists are still not unified on rosy boa taxonomy. The subspecific designations are just as uncertain with many sources not accepting "arizonae" or "saslowi"

Subspecies[edit]

Pet rosy boa eating a mouse

In captivity[edit]

Their generally docile temperament and small size make the rosy boa an ideal choice for a pet snake due to their easy care and small enclosure size (10–20 gallon). They are frequently captive bred, and readily feed on commercially available mice. Many color variations are available, including albinos as well as the different subspecies. With other species, such as corn snakes and ball pythons, dominating the majority of the market, the popularity of rosy boas hasn't been as high as other species.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stejneger, L.H. and T. Barbour 1917. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 125 pp. (Lichanura, p. 73.)
  2. ^ a b Schmidt, K.P. and D.D. Davis. 1941. Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. G.P. Putnam's Sons. New York. 365 pp. (Lichanura roseofusca, pp. 96–98 & Plate 8.)


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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: This species formerly was transfered from the genus Lichanura to the genus Charina by Kluge (1993). Collins and Taggart (2002), Stebbins (2003), and Burbrink (2005) adopted this change, whereas Grismer (2002) did not. With the recognition of C. umbratica as a distinct species, and considering that both Charina and Lichanura contain fossil species, Charina and Lichanura are not monotypic sister taxa and so Crother et al. (in Crother 2008, 2012) treated Charina and Lichanura as separate genera.

Wood et al. (2008) examined mtDNA variation across the species range and identified three lineages that do not correspond to the traditionally recognized taxa of Lichanura. Wood et al. allocated the mtDNA lineages to two species: Lichanura orcutti (California and Arizona) and L. trivirgata (extreme southwestern California, Baja California, Sonora (Mexico), and Arizona south of the Gila River. Wood et al. did not recognize any subspecies.

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Comments: This species formerly was transfered from the genus Lichanura to the genus Charina by Kluge (1993). Collins and Taggart (2002), Stebbins (2003), and Burbrink (2005) adopted this change, whereas Grismer (2002) did not. With the recognition of C. umbratica as a distinct species, and considering that both Charina and Lichanura contain fossil species, Charina and Lichanura are not monotypic sister taxa and so Crother et al. (in Crother 2008, 2012) treated Charina and Lichanura as separate genera.

Wood et al. (2008) examined mtDNA variation across the species range and identified three lineages that do not correspond to the traditionally recognized taxa of Lichanura. Wood et al. allocated the mtDNA lineages to two species: Lichanura orcutti (California and Arizona) and L. trivirgata (extreme southwestern California, Baja California, Sonora (Mexico), and Arizona south of the Gila River. Wood et al. did not recognize any subspecies.

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