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Any of about 60 species of stout-bodied snakes (subfamily Boinae, family Boidae) found in both the Old and New Worlds, mostly in warm regions. Species vary in length from about 8 in. (20 cm) to more than 25 ft (7.5 m). Most are terrestrial or semiaquatic; some live in trees. Most species have blotches and diamonds on their brown, green, or yellowish body. Boas bite their prey, then kill by wrapping their body around the prey and crushing it. Several species have heat-sensitive lip pits for detecting warm-blooded prey, and most bear live young. Contrary to folklore, boas are not dangerous to humans.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on boa, visit Britannica.com.