Physical characteristics

The woodsnakes and spinejaw snakes are small, inoffensive, boa-like snakes. The bones of the lower jaw and the ves-

Cuban ground boa (Tropidophis melanurus) is the largest of the Neotropical woodsnake species. (Photo by Animals Animals ┬ęDavid M. Dennis. Reproduced by permission.)

tigial pelvic girdle are similar to that of boas, while the absence of a functional left lung and the presence of a tracheal lung are more typical of colubrids. The hyoid apparatus and the condition of the contact between the prefrontal and internasal bones of the snout also are more similar to colubrids than boas.

The smallest woodsnake species is probably Tropidophis fuscus of Cuba; it is not known to exceed 12 in (30 cm). The largest species is Tropidophis melanurus of Cuba, with a reported maximum length of 41 in (106 cm).

Most woodsnakes and the spinejaw snakes are colored in shades of browns and grays, patterned with muted small blotches or stripes. There is a wide range of variation in the keels on dorsal scales in the genus Tropidophis; some species have individuals with smooth dorsal scales and others with strongly keeled dorsal scales. The incredibly rough, keeled, and spiky scalation of Trachyboa boulengeri makes it one of the most unusual snakes in the world.

Tropidophis feicki has the ability to change color to a slight degree, turning darker during the day and paler at night. The skin of several smooth-scaled taxa of woodsnakes exhibits iridescence; the large flat scales of Exiliboa placata are both shiny and iridescent, while the smaller ruggedly keeled scales of Trachyboa gularis give a drab and dusty appearance.

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