The Rainbow boa is a medium-sized non-venomous snake native to Central and South America. It is named for its attractive iridescent/holographic sheen caused by structural coloration. Its skin refracts light and creates a rainbow-colored effect. Rainbow boas are brown or reddish-brown in color with black stripes on the top of the head and large black rings down their back. Females in this species are significantly larger than males.
Rainbow boas are found in lower Central America (Costa Rica and Panama), and farther south into South America it occurs east of the Andes roughly reaching northern Argentina (in the provinces: Chaco, Córdoba, Corrientes, Formosa, Salta, Santiago del Estero, and Tucumán). They live in humid forests and can also be found in open savannas.
Rainbow boas are solitary creatures. They are nocturnal but may be seen basking during the day when temperatures at night are low. These snakes are mostly terrestrial and search for prey on the forest floor and rocky areas; to locate the prey Rainbow boas use heat-sensing pits on their jaw. They are excellent swimmers but usually avoid hunting in the water; however, they may often be seen hunting for amphibians at the edge of the water. When threatened Rainbow boas will bite in order to defend themselves.
Rainbow boas are polygynous which means that males mate with multiple females. The breeding season usually occurs from November to January. They give birth to live young, as opposed to many other snakes who lay eggs. Females give birth to 11-16 snakelets after the gestation period of around 5 months. The newborn snakelets are independent at birth and are usually 38-50 cm (15-20 inches) long. Young males usually reach reproductive maturity when they are 4 feet (1.2 meters) long while females start to breed at 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) long which is between 2.5 and 4 years of age.
Because of their beautiful coloring Rainbow snakes are commonly found in the pet trade. Destruction of their native habitat for agriculture, ranching, and development has also significantly decreased the population of this species.
Rainbow boas play an important role in the ecosystem they live in. Due to their diet, these snakes help to control populations of small mammals, especially rodents.