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Woodsnakes and Spinejaw Snakes: Tropidophiidae

Behavior And Reproduction

The snakes spend a good deal of time actively, but slowly, slithering through their habitat, apparently on the hunt for food. Scientists suspect that they also find hiding places, where they remain still and wait for the meal to come to them. This tactic, called ambush, is very effective for snakes like these that blend into the background very well. Most of the woodsnakes and spinejaw snakes live on the ground, but a few will also climb a few feet into trees or shrubs. The bromeliad woodsnakes are the best climbers in the family and will slink into plants, known as bromeliads (broh-MEE-lee-ads), that grow on the trunks and branches of tall trees.


Humans have helped many species move from one place to another. Sometimes, people purposely introduce a new species. For example, people who move to a new country frequently bring along a favorite plant to put it in the garden and remind them of the homeland. Often, however, animals hitchhike with people when they travel. The woodsnakes and spinejaw snakes are no exception. The Panamanian dwarf boa has made its way from its home in Central America to both Europe and the United States by stowing away in bunches of bananas.

Most of the woodsnakes and spinejaw snakes are active mainly at night, but they also come out during the day to sunbathe, or bask. When they feel threatened, the majority of the species will roll their bodies into a ball, rather than strike and bite as many other snakes do. Members of the genus Trachyboa coil into a flat disk instead of a ball, burying the head in the center of the disk. If an attacking animal, or predator (PREH-duh-ter), bites at a woodsnake, a bad-smelling material may ooze out of the snake's vent, a slitlike opening on the belly side of the animal. The odor is sometimes enough to cause the predator to leave. Only rarely will the snake bite back at an attacking animal. Some species in the genus Tropidophis have a rather unusual way of protecting themselves from predators. If a predator bothers them enough, they will begin to bleed from the mouth, nostrils, and eyes. Because the bleeding, or hemorrhaging (HEHM-rihj-ing), can start automatically—even though the snake has no injury—it is called autohemorrhaging (aw-toe-HEHM-rihj-ing).

Female woodsnakes and spinejaw snakes give birth to baby snakes, instead of eggs. Few people have studied this snake, so little additional information is available about their reproduction or behavior.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesWoodsnakes and Spinejaw Snakes: Tropidophiidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Southern Bromeliad Woodsnake (ungaliophis Panamensis): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, SPINEJAW SNAKES WOODSNAKES AND PEOPLE, CONSERVA