Sand boa (Eryx jaculus)

27 December 2014

Eryx jaculus is the only species of boas found in Europe and it is the rarest species of reptile from Romania, being thus the least known. [11]

Sand boa can be found in Albania, Macedonia, Greece, on many islands from the Aegean Sea, in Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. [5, 6; 7, 8, 13]

The Geographic Range of Eryx jaculus in Europe [2]

The Geographic Range of Eryx jaculus in Europe [2]

Eryx jaculus comprises 3 subspecies: Eryx jaculus jaculus can be found in North Africa, Eryx jaculus turcicus can be found in the Balkan peninsula and Western Asia Minor and Eryx jaculus familiaris in Persia, R.S.S. Armenian and Eastern Asia Minor. Only subspecies Eryx jaculus turcicus lives in Romania.

The Geographic Range of Eryx jaculus in Romania [2]

The Geographic Range of Eryx jaculus in Romania [2]

Morphology. It is a species of medium size and it can grow up to 80 cm. The body is strong, cylindrical with a constant thickness from head to tail. The tail can be at most 1/10 – 1/16 of the total lenght of the body. This tail is short and perfectly round, provided with a conical scale. On the anterior side the head it is narrow and the muzzle is strong cut and exceeds the maxilla. It is the only species of snake in Romania with elongated elliptical pupil which is arranged vertically. The rostral is wide, big and the upper half is completed in an obtuse angle. The prefrontals have triangular form, the frontals and the interparietal are hexagonal. The interparietal is bordered by four small plates to the side and posterior. The eye crown is composed of small scales in number of 9-10, separated from supralabials 4 and 5 by a scale. The eye crowns are connected to the top of the head by four plates. Supralabial plates are in number of 10-12 and are higher than they are long. Body scales are small, round and hexagonal arranged in 40—50 longitudinal rows. Ventral scales are narrow and arranged in 163-200 transversal rows. The 15-33 subcaudals are arranged on a single row. [5, 6]

The Colour is yellowish or light greyish with large, irregular and dark brown spots arranged transversally. The head is gray with a white region in the temporal zone. From the eye to the edge of the mouth a dark stripe can be observed. The ventral part is yellowish and it can be speckled or not with black. The dorsal side of the juveniles is dark with 2 rows of white spots which marge laterally towards the middle of the body. On the ventral side the color is white with black spots. [5, 6]

Ecology. Sand boa prefers sandy soils and loose soil in which it digs hiding. It is a nocturnal species, during the day it stays buried into the sand. It feeds on lizards, mice and snails. It is a ovoviviparity species (the female hatches eggs in the oviduct), laying 6-12 eggs. In July the babies hatch. [5, 6]

In Romania this species was found in Dobrudja, on the territory of the following localities: Cernavodă, Cărpiniş – Giuvegea, Cochirleni şi Mahmudia. [5, 6, 10, 14] The most recently record of this species in this area was made in 1986 in a habitat located between the villages Beștepe and Mahmudia from Dobrudja [14]. No recent study in Dobrogea has provided information about this species. [3, 12] The extinction of the species Eryx jaculus from Dobrudja is supposed to be due to the Danube-Black Sea canal, being considered responsible for the destruction of the natural habitat where this species lived. [10, 7]

For a very long time this species was considered by some authors as extinct [1, 7] or endangered [8], but behold in 2012 a team of researchers published a very interesting article in which they describe a specimen of Sand boa hit by a car in southern Romania between Corabia and Turnu Măgurele (Olt and Teleorman County). It is for the first time, after many years, when this species appears in literature and a very interesting thing is the fact that this species is reported in another area than in Dobrudja. [4]

Latest news in the press about this species recounts a population of Eryx jaculus, alive and healthy individuals, reported also in southern Romania. We look forward to the publication of the scientific article!

Legislation. In Romania the species is protected by Law no.13 of 1993, by means of which Romania ratifies the Berne Convention (Annex III), European Directive 92/43/EEC (Annex IV), Law no. 462/2001 regarding the state of natural protected areas, the conservation of natural habitats, of the wild flora and fauna (Annex IV) and also by Government Emergency Ordinance no. 57/2007 regarding the state of natural protected areas, the conservation of natural habitats, of the wild flora and fauna, approved with subsequent amendments and supplements (Annex IV A),  being considered a community interest species which requires strict protection. [15, 16, 17, 18]

According to the IUCN classification, at a global level, this species has a Not Evaluated status (NE), and in the Red Book of Vertebrates of Romania it is marked as endangered (EN). [9]


1. Cogălniceanu D., Venczel M., (1993): Considerations on the protection and conservation of populations of amphibians and reptiles. Ocrotirea Naturii Mediului Înconjurător 37:109–114.

2. Cogălniceanu D., Rozylowicz L., Székely P., Samoilă C., Stănescu F., Tudor M., Székely D., Iosif R., (2013): Diversity and distribution of reptiles in Romania, ZooKeys 341: 49-76.

3. Covaciu–Marcov S.D., Ghira I., Cicort – Lucaciu A.Şt., Sas I., Strugariu A., Bogdan H.V., (2006): Contributions to knowledge regarding the geographical distribution of the herpetofauna of Dobrudja, Romania. North-Western Journal of Zoology 2 (2): 88-125.

4. Covaciu-Marcov S.D., Firenți S., Ciocort-Lucaciu A.S., Sas I., (2012): Eryx jaculus (Reptilia, Boidae) north of Danube: a road-killed specimen from Romania, Acta Herpetologica 7(1): 41-47.

5. Fuhn I.E., Vancea Şt., (1961): Fauna R.P.R. Reptilia (Ţestoase, Şopârle, Şerpi). Vol XIV, fasc. 2, Editura Academiei R.P.R., Bucureşti. [in Ro]

6. Fuhn I.E., (1969): Broaște, șerpi, șopârle. Ed. Ştiinţifică, Bucureşti. [in Ro]

7. Gasc J.P., Cabela A., Crnobrnja-Isailovic, Domen D., Groessenbacher K., Haffner P., Lescure J., Martens H., Marinez Rica J.P., Maurin H., Oliveira M.E., Sofianidou T.S., Veith M., Zuiderwijk A., (1997): Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Societas Europaea Herpetologica & Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle Paris.

8. Gherghel I., Strugariu A., Zamfirescu S., (2009): Using maximum entropy to predict the distribution of a critically endangered reptile spesies (Eryx jaculus, Reptilia: Boidae) at its Northern range limit. AES Bioflux 1 (2):65-71.

9. Iftime A., (2005): Reptilia. In: Botnariuc & Tatole (eds): Cartea Roşie a Vertebratelor din România. Ed. Acad. Române, Bucureşti. [in Ro]

10. Kiritescu C., (1903): On the presence of Eryx jaculus Romania. Bulletin Société des Sciences, Bucarest 11:620–626.

11. Krecsák L., Iftime A., (2006): A review of the records of the Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus) in Romania. The Herpetological Bulletin, 98: 31–34.

12. Strugariu A., Sos T., Gherghel I., Ghira I., Sahlean T.C., Pușcașu C.M., Huțuleac-Volosciuc M.V., (2008): Distribution and current status of the herpetofaunã from the Northern Măcin mountains area (Tulcea county, Romania). Analele Științifice ale Universității ”Al. I. Cuza” Iaşi, s. Biologie animală LIV: 191-206.

13. Tokar A.A. & Obst F.J., (1993): Eryx jaculus (Linnaeus, 1758) – Westliche Sandboa. In: Handbuch der Reptilien und Amphibien Europas. Band 3/1. Schlangen (Serpentes) I. (Typhlopidae, Boidae, Colubridae 1: Colubrinae), pp. 35–53. Böhme, W. (Ed.). Wiesbaden: Aula.

14. Zinke O., Hielscher K., (1990): Proof of presence of Western boa (Eryx jaculus turcicus [Oliver]) in Romania (Reptilia, Serpentes: Boidae). Abhandlungen Staatliche Naturhistorische Sammlung Dresden 17:191–192.

15. ***Legea 13 din 1993 prin care România ratifică Convenţia de la Berna. [in Ro]

16. ***Directiva Europeană 92/43/EEC. [in Ro]

17. ***Legea nr. 462/2001 privind regimul ariilor naturale protejate, conservarea habitatelor naturale, a florei şi faunei sălbatice. [in Ro]

18. ***Ordonanţa de Urgenţă a Guvernului nr. 57/2007 privind regimul ariilor naturale protejate, conservarea habitatelor naturale, a florei şi faunei sălbatice, aprobată cu modificări şi completări ulterioare. [in Ro]


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