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Tropidophiidae



Tropidophiids or "dwarf boas" are a family of small snakes. Despite their name, they are not closely related to true boas (family Boidae). They are found in South America and the West Indies, and reach their highest diversity on Cuba. Most species are 1-2 feet long, drab-colored, nocturnal, and give birth to live young. Many change color from day to night. They either completely lack a left lung or have a greatly reduced one, but possess a "tracheal lung" on the dorsal wall of the trachea. When threatened, these snakes coil up into tight balls and spontaneously bleed from their nose and mouth. There are two genera: 32 species of Tropidophis and two species of Trachyboa. Tropidophiids eat mostly frogs and lizards, and they constrict their prey in the same way as true boas, but recent molecular analyses have shown that they are most closely related to the single species of Red Pipesnake (Anilius scytale, family Aniliidae). This family used to contain two other genera, Exiliboa and Ungaliophis, which we now know to be more closely related to true boas. Because most species live on islands, tropidophiids are faced with numerous threats, including the almost complete destruction of native ecosystems and predation from non-native mongeese.

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© Andrew Durso

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