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Neotropical Sunbeam Snake: Loxocemidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Because this snake spends a good deal of its time underground, scientists know little about the details of its behavior in the wild but have learned some information from captive snakes, which are held in various zoos around the world. They are called semi-fossorial (SEM-ee-faw-SOR-ee-ul) animals. "Fossorial" means that they spend time below ground, and adding "semi" points out that they frequently leave their underground homes. During the daytime, the snakes stay out of sight by using their upward-curved snouts to push through leaves to reach the ground, where they dig into loose dirt to make tunnels, or burrows. They come out at night and on rainy days to wander around above ground looking for things to eat. The white speckles on the backs of adults likely provide some camouflage. Like many other animals, the pattern on the skin breaks up the outline of their bodies and makes it more difficult for predators (PREH-duh-ters), or animals that hunt other animals for food, to spot them against the background habitat. For example, a completely dark snake slithering over a pile of leaves would be more noticeable than a snake with lighter patches that hide its outline.

Because the neotropical sunbeam snake spends a good deal of its time underground, scientists know little about the details of its behavior in the wild. (R. Wayne Van Devender. Reproduced by permission.)

The neotropical sunbeam snake finds its food by following scent trails or by simply spotting a mammal, lizard, or an egg. It is a constrictor (kun-STRIK-tuhr), which means that it coils its body around the animal it wants to eat, then tightens the coil until the animal passes out or dies. It then releases the coil, slides its head around, and eats the prey. As noted, it wraps its body around eggs but does not crush them.

During breeding season, male neotropical sunbeam snakes fight over females, sometimes biting one another in quite vicious battles. The males have sharp spurs near the vent. These spurs can apparently cut the female quite deeply during mating. About two months after mating, captive females commonly lay from two to four eggs at a time, although they can lay eight or more. Baby snakes in the wild hatch in May. When they reach four to five years old, they can begin to have their own babies.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesNeotropical Sunbeam Snake: Loxocemidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, NEOTROPICAL SUNBEAM SNAKES AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS