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The Boa Constrictor is a large, solitary snake from Central and South American rainforests, savannas, and semi-arid areas. Boas are kept as house-snakes in parts of South America, where the boas help by catching and suffocating rats. The Boa Constrictor is related to the larger Anaconda. Boas give birth to live young; up to 64 2-ft (60-cm) long baby snakes are born at one time. All species of boas are either endangered or protected.

Hunting and Diet: Boa Constrictors are carnivores (meat-eaters). They mainly hunt at night (they are generally nocturnal). Boas kill by constricting (squeezing) the prey until it can no longer breathe. Sometimes they drown the prey. Like all snakes, they swallow the prey whole, head first. The boa's top and bottom jaws are attached to each other with stretchy ligaments, which let the snake swallow animals wider than itself. Snakes don't chew their food, they digest it with very strong acids in the snake's stomach.

Boa Constrictors eat birds, small mammals (like monkeys, peccaries, and rodents), and some reptiles (including iguanas, young crocodilians and lizards) After eating a large animal, the snake needs no food for a long time, and rests for weeks.

Anatomy: Like all snakes, Boa Constrictors are cold-blooded; they are the same temperature as the environment. They continue to grow all their lives, getting bigger and bigger each year. Adult Boa Constrictors average about 6 to 10 feet (1.8-3 m) long and weigh over 60 pounds (27 kg). The largest boa constrictor ever found was 18.5 feet (5.5 m) long. Boa Constrictors have coloration that camouflages them; they have varying patterns of cream, brown, tan, gray, and black with ovals and diamonds. The scaly skin glistens but is dry is to the touch. It has no fangs. The forked tongue senses odors. There are heat sensors under the upper lip; these help the snake locate warm-blooded prey, like mammals and birds.

Classification: Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Reptilia, Order Squamata (lizards and snakes), Suborder Serpentes, Family Boidae (constrictors), Genus Boa, Species constrictor.

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