Difference Between Boa And Python

Boas and pythons are two of the most well-known snake species living in North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. These non-venomous snakes fascinate people because of their prehistoric appearance, size, and hunting abilities. Though they appear similar, boas and pythons have subtle anatomical and behavioral differences from millions of years of evolution on separate continents.

Though they look very similar, boas and pythons have key differences in their anatomy, geographic range, habitat, hunting techniques, and reproductive strategies.  Pythons like reticulated pythons and Burmese pythons are often longer and heavier than boa species like the emerald tree boa and boa constrictor. Pythons also possess heat-sensing pits, while boas do not. Most pythons lay eggs, making them oviparous, whereas boas primarily give birth to live young, making them viviparous.

However, some species go against the norm in their reproductive strategies. Because these two snake families lived in different parts of the world, boas were able to thrive in places like tropical forests and deserts in the New World.
Pythons learned to live in places like the savannas of Africa and the jungles of Southeast Asia.

Though distinct, boas and pythons mesmerize people with their shared abilities to constrict large prey using their muscular coils. Knowing the major differences and connections between these well-known snakes gives us a better idea of their differences. (Read Difference Between Reptiles And Mammals)

Main Difference Between a Boa and a Python

What’s the Main Difference Between a Boa and a Python?

The main difference between boas and pythons comes down to their geographic range. Boas are found predominantly in the Americas, while pythons are native to Asia, Africa, and Australia. This geographic separation means boas and pythons will have evolved independently of each other over millions of years. Thus, now leading to subtle anatomical differences between the two snake families. However, to the untrained eye, many boas and pythons look identical.

How to Tell a Boa From a Python

Though they look alike, there are a few ways to distinguish a python from boa:

  • The number of teeth: Pythons have more numerous and sharper. Boas also have fewer teeth, at around 20 -40, whereas pythons have about 100-150 teeth. The “premaxilla,” a pair of upper jaw bones in pythons, is also teeth-bearing.
  • Sensory pits: Pythons have heat-sensing pits along the tip of their tong, meaning they can hunt prey more effectively. These pits are absent in boas.
  • Premaxilla bone: Boas have a pair of short premaxilla bones at the tip of their upper jaw, while pythons have more bones in their head and a single fused premaxilla bone.
  • Oviparity vs. viviparity: Boas tend to be viviparous and give live birth, while pythons are oviparous and lay eggs. However, there are exceptions, as some pythons give live birth too.
  • Size: On average, pythons grow longer and heavier than boas. The reticulated python is the world’s longest snake at over 30 feet, while the green anaconda is the world’s heaviest snake.

So, in summary, pythons are found to have more teeth and sensory pits, while boa snakes have an extra premaxilla bone and more often give live birth. But there are exceptions to these rules, making identification tricky!

Habitat Differences Between Boas and Pythons

While boas and pythons are both constrictors, they live on different continents and have adapted to live in very different habitats. You’ll typically find boa constrictors are found in environments throughout the Americas, from rainforests to deserts. Some species, like the emerald tree boa, live in tropical forests. Others, like the rosy boa, thrive in dry, rocky areas.

In contrast, different species of pythons will be seen living in tropical forests, savannas, marshes, and harsh deserts in Africa, Asia, and Australia. For example, ball pythons live in the grasslands of West Africa, while reticulated pythons occupy rainforests in Southeast Asia. These habitat differences stem from millions of years of evolution on separate continents. Both boas and pythons are adept at surviving in their native environments. (Read Can Bearded Dragons Eat Ladybugs)

Hunting and Feeding: How Do Boas and Pythons Differ?

Boas and pythons have some subtle differences in hunting and feeding.  Both types of snakes are ambush predators, and make full use of camouflage to help catch prey. They strike quickly to grab and constrict their prey until it suffocates.

However, pythons sense heat quickly; thus, they have an advantage when hunting warm-blooded prey like birds and mammals. Boas lack these specialized pits and rely more on vision and sensing vibrations. Another difference is in their teeth. Pythons’ numerous sharp teeth are adapted for seizing and gripping prey. Boas have fewer curved teeth to grip rather than pierce. This allows them to swallow prey whole more safely.

Regarding diet, boas and pythons eat mainly small to medium-sized mammals and birds. Pythons occasionally eat larger prey, owing to their greater size and strength.

How Do Boas and Pythons Reproduce?

When it comes to reproduction, there are differences between these two snakes:

  • Oviparity vs viviparity: Pythons are considered oviparous, meaning they lay eggs. While most boas are ovoviviparous, and boa constrictors give birth to live snakes. However, some pythons and boas go against the norm.
  • Birthing: Boas tend to give birth to 10-60 live young, while pythons lay clutches of 10-100 eggs. Python eggs incubate for 2-3 months.
  • Parenting: Female pythons often protect and incubate their eggs until they are ready to hatch, while boas do not care for their young after giving live birth.

So, in general, female boas gestate and give birth to live young, while python females lay clutches of eggs that need incubating. But exceptions exist in both snake families.

Boa and Python Snakes

Most Iconic Species of Boa and Python Snakes

Now that we’ve covered their main differences let’s look at some of the most iconic boa and python species:

Most Famous Boa Species

  • Boa constrictor: One of the most recognized snakes. Found in Central and South America. This large boa species is often the largest snake type and grows 6-12 feet long.
  • Emerald tree boa: Arboreal species with distinctive emerald skin. This giant snake lives in the Amazon rainforests. Grows 6-10 feet long.
  • Rubber boa: Small, docile boa of western North America. The small size of a boa in this species is 2-4 feet long, and thus these boas are often taken as a popular pet. (Learn How To Protect Your Watermelon Farm)

Most Well-Known Pythons

  • Burmese python: Massive Southeast Asian species that grows 15-22 feet long. They are considered invasive in Florida and are often hunted to control numbers.
  • Reticulated python: The longest snake in the world, reaching over 30 feet, that lives in Southeast Asia.
  • Ball python: Smaller African species popular as pets, which grows 3-5 feet long and has a docile temperament.

These are just a sample of the incredible diversity of boas and pythons as world snakes and seen slithering across the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Why Did Boa Constrictor and Python Evolve Differently?

Pythons and boa constrictors belong to separate families that diverged evolutionarily over 100 million years ago.  When the supercontinent Gondwana broke apart, boas were mainly from North and South America, and pythons were typically found in Africa and Asia. Neither snake has changed much over millions of years due to their successful body plan.

This geographic separation led boas and python snake species to adapt to their local environments over immense timescales. Although they appear outwardly similar, numerous small differences arose between the python and a boa in the world of snakes.

Conclusion: Main Differences Between Boa and Python?

Although they live continents apart and have notable anatomical and behavioral differences. The boa vs python dilemma shows boas and pythons are similar and more alike than they are different. Major differences are that pythons can be found to lay eggs, while boas give birth to live young.

These two types of snakes share a common body plan that has stood the test of time for over 100+ million years. They dominate their environments as ambush predators that use constriction to subdue prey. Boa constrictors and pythons s fascinate people with their immense size, prehistoric appearance, and stealthy hunting skills. Understanding their distinct differences gives us a deeper appreciation for their diversity and evolution.

If you have these as pets, you’ll find pythons prefer to avoid confrontation, and boas, compared to pythons, are more active.

Boa Vs Python

FAQs about Boa Vs Python

Which snake family is bigger – boas or pythons?

On average, pythons like reticulated pythons and anacondas reach much greater lengths and weights than boa species. The massive reticulated python is the longest snake in the world.

Are boas venomous snakes?

No, boas are non-venomous constrictors. They kill prey by constricting it, not by injecting venom. However, some boas mimic venomous snakes like vipers as a defense mechanism. (Read Can Bearded Dragons Eat Spiders)

Do boas make good pets?

Some boa species have calm temperaments, like rosy boas, boa constrictors, and ball pythons. But they require large, secure enclosures and steady temperatures. Research their needs before getting one as a pet.

Where are pythons found in the wild?

Pythons are living native in Africa, Asia, Australia, and some Pacific Islands. They can thrive in numerous habitats, comprising rainforests, savannas, marshes, and deserts.

Why are Burmese pythons invasive in Florida?

Pet Burmese pythons likely escaped or were released into Florida’s Everglades. Without any predators, they thrived and now out-compete native species. They’re apex predators there.

Do pythons crush and suffocate their prey?

Pythons seize large prey animals in their coils and squeeze tighter each time the animal exhales to restrict breathing. This suffocates the prey to death.

Difference Between Boa And Python

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