Whitaker's Boa ( Eryx whitakeri Das, 1991 )

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Scientific Name: 
Eryx whitakeri (Das, 1991)
Regional Names: 
Whitaker’s sand boa
ವಿಟೇಕರ್ ಮರಳು ಹಾವು
Endemic to Western Ghats and Western Coastal Plains of North Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Venom Type: 
Characteristics for identification: 

Before description this species was documented as Eryc conicus (Common Sand Boa) which looks very close to it. Eryx whitakeri is found to have smoother and more shiny scales. Body patterns looks close to Common Sand Boa. With very close appearance like Common Sand Boa (E. conicus) it can be easily identified by checking its small head, thick & robust body marked with irregular sepia patches, smooth scales and thick tail covered with smooth scales.


Dorsal -
Body short and very thick; smooth or weakly keeled scales found in all over the body. Body full of irregular patches of dark color which are usually continuous and fused with ground color making sometimes uniform in appearance on superficial look. Ground color brown or reddish brown which is always lighter than color of patches.

Ventral -
Belly scales much narrower like typical burrowers. Color generally yellowish-white with or without dark patches. Subcaudal scales unpaired.

Head -
Head small and not very distinct from neck; covered with weakly keeled or smooth scales. Underside also covered with small scales and mental groove absent. Eyes small with vertical pupil.

Tail -
Tail very short, thick and covered with smooth or weakly keeled keeled scales of smooth appearance; ends with small rounded tip.

Supralabial 13-14; scales between eyes 8-9; scales around eyes 10-11; mental groove absent.
Mostly smooth or very weakly keeled scales in 50-54 rows.
201-213; narrower than body thickness; anal tripartite. Males with a small spur on each side of vent (near anal).
Sub Caudal: 
18-25; undivided.
Habitat includes hilly or highland agricultural fields, gardens, unused lands having sandy soil, deep cracks and rat holes. Hides in cracks, mounds, under wooden logs, rat holes, brick piles, rock piles etc.
Natural History: 
Nocturnal and burrowing. Can be seen at day time while foraging and preying. Spend most of the life as a burrower. Climbing tendency in rocky terrain is found. Locomotion very slow and lethargic. Behavior usually non-offensive (much docile than Common Sand Boa) and try to escape first. Makes a robust coil to hide its head in defense. In aggressive mood it flattens whole body and throw it into open coil with head ready to strike. Unlike its normally slow behavior, it strikes in surprisingly quick way and can give painful bite if successfully get body part of enemy.
Feeds on lizards, rodents and birds. Kills its prey by constriction method.
General threats includes road kills and destruction of hills of Western Ghats as this species is found in belt of Western Ghats only, habitat destruction will cause population decline. Unintentional killing is done during agricultural and other digging activities as it’s a burrower. Due to its small distribution adverse effects due to illegal pet trade is always possible.
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