A rather short, thick snake; largest Egyptian specimen has a total length of 770 mm. Tail relatively short; average tail / total length = 0.09; tail terminating with a conical scale. Head covered with small scales, 11-13 scales across the interorbital region, 12-15 scales around the eyes, 12-14 supralabials. Dorsals smooth on the anterior portion of the body, becoming increasingly keeled toward the tail; 47-53 scales around mid-body; 171-197 ventrals; anal and subcaudals 19-28, entire. Dorsum sandy, with large, irregularly shaped, dark-brown blotches; venter plain, yellowish.
Distribution in Egypt
Margins of the Nile Valley north to 30°N, including the Fayoum depression, and the Red Sea coastal plain in the Gebel Elba region. Possible also in some of the large wadis of the southern Eastern Desert, such as Wadi El Allaqi. Tracks probably of this species were observed in sandy areas adjacent to Lake Nasser. The record from Marsa Matruh (Marx 1968) is based on two correctly identified specimens, but the collection locality is doubtful: the species has not been collected before or since from the region. The reference of Saleh (1997) to the occurrence of the species in the "Mediterranean Coastal Desert" is probably based on Marx's (1968) report.
The Sahel from Niger to Sudan and Ethiopia, north to Egypt. Possibly southwest Arabia.
Distribution: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Libya, Chad, Niger, Yemen, Tanzania, Somalia loveridgei: Arid areas of Kenya and NE Tanzania at Kahe and Msembe near Ruaha National Park.
Type locality: Mbunyuni, Kenya
Type locality: “Aegypto”
A species of loose sandy and alluvial soils, inhabiting desert margins and marginal agricultural lands, and savannah-like parkland. In Egypt it is found in and adjacent to the Nile Valley alluvial plain. In the southeast of Egypt, near Gebel Elba, it has been found in vegetated sand dunes on the Red Sea coastal plain.
Life History and Behavior
A nocturnal or crepuscular snake; partly fossorial, capable of moving below soil surface and waits concealed for its prey. Moves in a distinct serpentine motion above the surface.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Evolution and Systematics
Scales of integument of the Kenyan sand boa minimize abrasive damage by having a gradient in the material properties.
"The aim of this study was to compare material properties of the outer and inner scale layers of the exuvium [discarded skin after shedding] of Gongylophis colubrinus, to relate the structure of the snake integument to its mechanical properties. The nanoindentation experiments have demonstrated that the outer scale layers are harder, and have a higher effective elastic modulus than the inner scale layers. The results obtained provide strong evidence about the presence of a gradient in the material properties of the snake integument. The possible functional significance of this gradient is discussed here as a feature minimizing damage to the integument during sliding locomotion on an abrasive surface, such as sand." (Klein et al. 2010:659)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Klein MCG; Deuschle JK; Gorb SN. 2010. Material properties of the skin of the Kenyan sand boa Gongylophis colubrinus (Squamata, Boidae). J Comp Physiol A. 196: 659-668.
Status in Egypt
Uncommon and localized. Declining due to habitat destruction and over-collection by commercial animal collectors. Much of the species' marginal habitats on the fringes of the Nile Valley have been or are being targeted for reclamation: it is not known how well these animals adapt to newly cultivated lands. One of the most popular reptiles in the pet trade in Egypt, under severe collection pressure. In Egypt it is Vulnerable.
Adult specimens are rarely more than 91 cm (3 feet) in length. These snakes are heavily built with small heads, small eyes, and short tails. The color pattern may consist of a yellow or orange coloration overlaid with dark brown splotches. The belly is white or cream colored.They are readily available in the pet trade due to their small size, docility and ease of care. In recent years there have been a number of new morphs made available by both commercial and hobby breeders. Some of the more popular morphs available include anerythristic Kenyan sand boas (black and white lacking orange/red simple recessive trait), albino Kenyan sand boas (lacking black pigment simple recessive), snow KSBs (double recessive combination of an anery and albino), stripes (normal colored, anerythristic, albino and snow), hypo/ghost anerythristic KSBs, paradox albinos (simple recessive), paradox snows (double recessive trait). In addition many line bred traits have been accentuated on the above morphs, such as Nuclears (extreme red), High Whites, Reduced Patterns as examples.
Egyptian sand boa, Kenyan sand boa, East African sand boa, sand boa.
Found in northern Africa from Egypt as far west as Niger (Aïr), including Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, and northern Tanzania. A single specimen has been reported from Yemen. The type locality given is "Ægypto"
Occurs in semi-desert and scrub savannahs and rock outcroppings. Prefers sandy, friable soil.
During the hotter times of the year, they seek refuge beneath stones and in the burrows of small mammals.
These snakes spend most of their time in shallow burrows with only their head exposed. They feed on small mammals that are quickly seized when passing within striking range and killed by constriction.
Viviparous, they breed readily November through April in the United States delivering live birth averaging 10-20 babies born spring through late summer. The young at birth typically are 20–25 cm (8-10 inches) in length.
A synonym for this species is Eryx colubrinus, given by Linnaeus. A.F. Stimson (1969) recognized two subspecies: Eryx colubrinus colubrinus and E. c. loveridgei Stull, but mentioned that a number of other authors, including Loveridge (1936), Scortecci (1939), Parker (1949) and Ahl (1933), questioned whether E. c. loveridgei was valid and considered the species to be monotypic with geographic variation.
When recognized, Gongylophis loveridgei is said to occur in the southern part of the range and is described as being more orange in color. Due to the length of time this species has been captive bred in the United States it is now difficult to determine their taxon solely by color due to cross breeding.
- 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).
- Mehrtens JM. 1987. Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
- "Gongylophis colubrinus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 23 November 2007.
- Huntley, Mark. 2012. SandBoaMorph.com’s East African Sand Boa Care Guide, CreateSpace Publishing. 36 pp. ISBN 1481003429. ISBN 978-1481003421
- Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Laurentii Salvii, Holmiæ. 10th Edition: 824 pp.
- Stull, O.G. 1932. Five new subspecies of the family Boidae. Occ. Pap. Boston Soc. nat. Hist. 8: 25-29