Boa constrictor

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Description of Artifact

Skin of the Boa-constrictor, Costa Rica. dimensions ____

Boa constrictor Linnaeus, 1758, “Indiis” (erroneous). Other Common Names: Redtail boa; French: Boa constricteur; German: Konigsboa, Sbgottshlangen; Spanish: Mazacuata, travaganado, macuarel, darura; Portuguese: Jibóia.

Overview

The Red-tailed Boa, Boa constrictor, is a species of boa, the second largest member of the family Boidae after the anaconda. This snake normally reaches a size of around 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3.0 m), with females being slightly larger on average than the males. The largest recorded specimen was over 18 feet (5.5 m) long, but there is some controversy over this 18 foot specimen, which was collected on the island of Trinidad. The specimen was not preserved for science and the skin was lost and it is now believed that it was a case of misidentification; the specimen in question most likely being an anaconda. The term "red-tailed" (and which subspecies is the "true" red-tailed boa) is debated somewhat in the breeding community, as it tends to be used by pet-shops as a marketing term when referring to any boa, and has little scientific meaning.

Common specimens have an interesting pattern of brown and black with a reddish tail. They do well in captivity, become quite docile, and are a common sight in zoos. Boas can easily live to be 20 to 30 years old, with rare accounts of over 40 years. Female Boas have "live birth", rather than laying eggs. Fertilization by the male is internal. During copulation, females can cling to the male via a small set of "spurs" that are generally hidden below scales on either side of the vent and are actually remnants of the hind legs. Due to the lengthy mating period, it is often difficult to determine the start date of fertilization. As result, gestation period of Boas is not well understood. After a gestation period of roughly 4-6 months, the female gives birth to 20-40 live young (ovoviviparous reproduction).

The species has been divided into a number of sub-species that occur from Mexico to Argentina, as well as on the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and St. Lucia. The sub-species vary somewhat in average size, color, and demeanor. Selective breeding has resulted in a wide range of colorations, including specimens which are completely white (albino), or white with orange-colored markings.

Historical Context

Of all the boas, this snake thrives in the most varied habitats. It shows, however, the least inclination toward water. Boa constrictors are both terrestrial and arboreal.

T 1677

Framed Snakeskin. Poor condition. In the nineteenth century, reptile and fish skins were prepared with "rectified spirits of wine," hence the deterioration of this example. Here is also an excellent example of why we are often told never to frame an item flush to the surface of the glass.

“Müller’s Solution” for the preparation of reptile skins was as follows: “bichromate of potash 2 oz., sulphate of soda 1 oz., distilled water 3 pints.” Or, cholride of zinc was also used.

References