One of the smallest boa species (4), the Arabian sand boa is the only boa found in south-east Arabia, and one of the most common snakes in the United Arab Emirates (5). The body is covered in smooth, glossy scales, and coloured yellow, with an irregular patterning of brown bars and blotches (2). The features of the head are unusual, with a chisel- shaped snout, and eyes that are positioned on the top of the head, rather than the sides (5). Boas are one of the most primitive snake groups, and retain vestigial features of the four-legged ancestors from which they evolved (6). In this species, the remnants of hind limbs are apparent as small claws towards the snake’s rear (2).
Rarely encountered by man, the harmless and nocturnal Arabian sand boa lives almost permanently under the desert sand (2)(7). The tapering head and smooth scales allow it to burrow through the soft sand without needing to surface (2). Despite these adaptations, the Arabian sand boa’s locomotion is relatively slow (7), and in order to catch prey it must rely on ambush (2). The positioning of the eyes on the uppermost part of the head allows this species to watch for prey on the surface while the rest its body remains submerged (2)(5). When prey strays too near, the Arabian sand boa strikes, coiling its muscular body around its victim and tightening its grip until the animal can no longer breathe or circulate blood (2)(6). The Arabian sand boa’s prey mainly comprises small reptiles which it can easily swallow whole, such as geckos and worm lizards (amphisbaenians) (5)(7).
Unlike most boas, which give birth to live young, the Arabian sand boa is one of only three boa species that lay eggs (8). Usually a clutch of seven eggs is laid, which take around two months to hatch (5)(8).
There are currently no known threats to the Arabian sand boa. It is widespread and in many parts of its range is considered common (5). The Arabian sand boa is also present in some protected areas in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (1).
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