(Price & Russo, 1991)
First Tumbes boas arrived to the US back in 1988. This first shipment contained a dozen 4-5 ft long animals that had several injuries probably from their preys. Wild caught animals readily accepted rats in captivity, making the scientist believe those scars on snakes were certainly from rats or another native rodent species in Northwest Peru.
Finally, these Tumbes boas- as they were very different in appearance from subspecies of constrictor, ortonii and imperator -were described as a new subspecies by Robert Price and Paul Russo in 1991.
The two authors were fascionated by the brilliant colors of these snakes immediately. The first stricking feature was the pattern on top of the head: a spear-like, black band which extends laterally at the level of the eyes. Furthermore, stripes running from the nostrils through the eyes to the angle of the jaw that is dark grey colored in juvenile specimens and pitch black in adults. All these head patterns are very typical, unique and is not found on other subspecies and localities.
First successful offsprings were achieved by Harding, Edelbrock, Mead and Meltzer in the early 1990ies. Tumbes boas kept by hobbysts these days are from the combination of these bloodlines.
The basic coloration of the animals is highly variable, could be golden-yellow, golden-brown or even gray.
Some adult specimens tend to have distinct steel gray colored head, therefore Tumbes boas used to be called as "Blue-headed boas". Interestingly, this blue-head feature has been whiped out by selection over the years.
Juveniles are going through astonishing changes in their first 3 years. In early age, they have light, grayish background with relatively blurred, uncharacteristic patterns. However, until they reach the adult age, their patterns- especially in the area of the head -turn into black, while background color become blazing yellow. The oldest specimens can be heavily patterned animals with dark background.
Adult females can reach 2,4m (8ft), however the majority will stay under 2m (5,5 ft) in captivity.
According to the authors described above, Tumbes boas have very long tails, hence the scientific name: longicauda. In the US market they are often labeled as "Long-tailed boas".
It is important to mention that there are some deficiencies in Price's and Russo's description. One of them is to localizing longicauda only to Tumbes province, Peru. Nowadays, it is obvious that those animals can also be found in Ecuadorian costal regions, towards north to Guayas and Manapi Province. That is approved by several pictures taken in West Ecuador that we have seen, as well as a picture in a herpetological book named Serpientes de Ecuador (Snakes of Ecuador).
Number of scales are also not accurate enough. According to the original describtion, longicauda have 19-21 dorsal blotches. However, there exist pure bloodlines in captivity that could have even 24 or more dorsal saddles.
Furthermore the question raises up, whether how closely Boa c. longicauda and Boa c. imperator ( or even Boa c. ortonii) are related to each other and where the border of their natural habitat is. To answer these interesting issue, further field studies would be needed. Unfortunately, North Peruvian and South Ecuadorian provinces have been stage of political battles, thus it is not likely these field studies will ever happen.
Although some sources claim that Boa c. longicauda is only a color and pattern variation of Boa c. ortonii, we can not confirm this statement. As you can see, the numbers of scale rows of these two subspecies are showing obvious differencies.
B. c. ortonii (Cope): 57-72 dorsal scale rows, 246-252 ventrals, 46-59 caudals, ? dorsal saddles (holotype had 29).
B. c. longicauda (Price & Russo): 60-76 dorsal scale rows, 223-247 ventrals, 50-67 caudals, 19-21 dorsal saddles.
Recently, several color morphs turned up in Tumbes boas litters in captivity. Anerythristic (lacking red pigments) is one of them, which is a simple recessive trait and makes the boas look black and white. However, we need to mention that Boa c. longicauda is not rife with red pigments in the first place, therefore recognizing anerythrystic specimens could be more difficult than with other boas.
A latter appeared morph is practically patternless. Interestingly, (one of) their breeder gave them an own trademark name with copyright, which authorize him and him only to label these patternless boas with such a fantasy name. However, very similar (same?) looking morphs turned up in other boa keepers collection at the same time, as well.
Tumbes boas have become very popular and common among the boa enthusiasts since the 1980ies. Due to their relatively moderate size, good temperament, diverse and unique appearance, we strongly recommend this subspeceies even for beginner snake keepers. I have to also emphasize that this subspecies a definitely a slow grower, therefore one should not expect as fast growing rate as with other subspecies.
We bred our Tumbes boas for the first time in 2013, producing the first ever Boa c. longicauda litter in Hungary. We also held back few special specimens from that litter.
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