Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records: 16
Specimens with Sequences: 17
Specimens with Barcodes: 14
Species: 5
Species With Barcodes: 4
Public Records: 14
Public Species: 4
Public BINs: 5
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Barcode data

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Common names: Old World sand boas[1]

The Erycinae are a subfamily of nonvenomous snakes, commonly called boas, found in Europe, Asia Minor, Africa, Arabia, central and southwestern Asia, India, Sri Lanka, and western North America. Three genera comprising 15 species are currently recognized.[1]


This is a subfamily of stout-bodied snakes, all of which are competent burrowers. The largest, E. johnii, rarely exceeds 120 cm (47 in) in total length (including tail). Most grow to around 60 cm (24 in) in totallength. They have small eyes and hard, small scales to protect their skin from the grit of sand. A great deal of sexual dimorphism exists, with females generally becoming much larger than males.

Geographic range[edit]

They are found in south and southeastern Europe, Asia Minor, north, central, west and east Africa, Arabia, central and southwestern Asia, India, Sri Lanka, southwestern Canada, the western United States, and northwestern Mexico.[2]

Fossil erycines have been found in rock strata over 50 million years old, and were once widespread in North America. Now, only two species remain in North America, as well as the sand boas in Africa, Asia, and southeastern Europe.


The majority of these snakes spend much of their time basking below the surface of the sand, with only their eyes or head exposed on the surface. When potential prey approaches, they erupt out of the sand, bite, and employ constriction to subdue it.


Their primary diet consists of rodents, but they have also been known to prey on lizards and birds.


Otherwise far removed from their boine relatives, they are generally ovoviviparous, i.e., giving birth to live young. Still, at least three species lay eggs: the Calabar python, Charina reinhardtii (once regarded as a python for this reason), the Arabian sand boa, Eryx jayakari, and the West African sand boa, E. muelleri.

Smuggling and poaching in India[edit]

The Indian government has failed to protect rare species of sand boa in India. Poaching and smuggling of this creature is very alarming.[3][4][5][6] Most of the smuggled snakes go to the USA, where they are considered very attractive.[7] Each specimen of a rare sand boa is sold for US$75-100, or 4,000-5,000 Indian rupees, and poor locals of India tend to sell them to bigger rackets for a very low price. Recently, few authorities have busted smugglers, but a very large sand boa smuggling operation is ongoing in India.[8] The Patiala Wildlife Department today (16th Nov. 2011) busted a gang involved in the trade of rare species of the Indian sand boa with the arrest of two persons. The two were allegedly trying to smuggle a pair of snakes of this rare species to Ludhiana for a whopping Rs 19 lakh. On a tipoff, the police intercepted a car carrying a sealed bag. When opened, it was found containing a pair of the Indian sand boas. “We immediately informed wildlife officials, who rushed to the spot and took away the snakes,” the police said.

Ashwani Kumar, Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife), Patiala, said, the “rare snakes fetch a high price. There is a misconception about their medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties, as well as the belief that keeping this snake as a pet brings wealth and prosperity.” In recent times, the trade of the sand boas has increased not just in South India, but also in the north.

Jugraj Singh, Range Forest Officer, Patiala, said the arrested persons had been sent to judicial custody for 14 days by a local court . The court had further ordered that the snakes be sent to the Chattbir Zoo.


Gongylophis colubrinus, G. conicus and E. johnii are frequently available in the exotic pet trade and are often captive bred. They breed readily, their small size making them an attractive option. On the down side, they sometimes have a tendency to be a little nippy, and spend the vast majority of their time hiding; so some keepers may not find them as enjoyable as the more gregarious species. They are usually not an aggressive species, though. Other species are not commonly available, but are occasionally imported, not usually captive bred.

Javelin sand boa


Genus[1]Taxon author[1]Species[1]Subsp.*[1]Common nameGeographic range[2]
CharinaGray, 184942Rosy boas, rubber boasNorth America from southwestern Canada south through the western United States into northwestern Mexico, west and central Africa from Liberia and Sierra Leone to Cameroon (including Bioko Island), the Central African Republic, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (almost as far east as Lake Kivu)
EryxTDaudin, 180382Old world sand boasSoutheastern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East and southwestern Asia
GongylophisWagler, 183030Sand boasAfrica from Mauritania and Senegal east to Egypt and south to Tanzania, also reported from the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent from eastern Pakistan, eastern India and Bangladesh south as far as northwestern Sri Lanka

* Not including the nominate subspecies.
T Type genus.[2]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Goin CJ, Goin OB, Zug GR. 1978. Introduction to Herpetology, Third Edition. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Company. xi + 378 pp. ISBN 0-7167-0020-4. (Subfamily Erycinae, p. 319).
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List of erycine species and subspecies

This is a list of all genera, species and subspecies of the subfamily Erycinae,[1] otherwise referred to as Old World sand boas, or erycines. It follows the taxonomy currently provided by ITIS, which is based on the continuing work of Dr. Roy McDiarmid.[2]

See also


  1. ^ "Erycinae". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 23 September 2007. 
  2. ^ McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, vol. 1. Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
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