Russian Sand Boa Morphs

Russian sand boas (RSBs) are born with a juvenile pattern that changes as they mature. Most individuals will have a dark, banded dorsal pattern over a gray to brown background. Some juveniles may have brown or orange bellies with heavy black flecking. These juveniles will keep their dorsal pattern, though it may break up a bit as they age. Other juveniles may have black bellies. These are the black Russians. Their dorsal color will darken with age but a faint pattern may remain.

Russian Sand Boa Morphology

Litter of juvenile albino, cinnamon, and black Russians.

Russian sand boa morphology is in its infancy and much remains to be learned about the inheritability of color and pattern variations within the species. Many of the color phases seem to be polygenic, where two or more genes may be contributing to a certain trait and those genes may have dominance, incomplete dominance, or codominance over one another. This may result in a wide degree of color variability within a single litter. Currently, the only known color morph expressed as homozygous recessive is the albino.

Below are descriptions and information on color phases/morphs based on my observations and records of breeding results. Hopefully as RSB breeders share more information our knowledge of these phases and morphs may become more refined. I hope to progressively update the information below as more is learned.

Normal

Russian sand boas referred to as “normal” retain the dorsal juvenile pattern of brown and black, however the sides have varying amounts of black, gray, and white. Although other phases are found in the wild as well, this seems to be the most common color and pattern across its natural range.

Common wildtype color phase and pattern.

Black

This is a naturally occurring phase in the wild. Juveniles have a dorsal pattern that may be retained through adulthood, although the pattern fades as the animal darkens. The sides are heavily speckled with gray, silver, and white. Black offspring can be produced by breeding to any color phase. Breeding black to cinnamon results in about half of the offspring being black. Breeding black to black results in a majority of black offspring but may also produce a cinnamon or two. Super blacks can be produced from this type of cross as well.

This phase does not seem simple recessive. It follows a codominant pattern of inheritance.

Adult female black Russian

Super Black

These are an extreme variation of black that completely loses the juvenile dorsal pattern as an adult. They often are gray with black dorsal pattern and black bellies as juveniles. As they mature they undergo an impressive ontogenetic color change, resulting in a high-gloss, black specimen with light speckling of white or silver on the sides. Super black bred to any phase results in about half black and super blacks. Super black bred to super black does not yield all super black offspring. Instead, offspring may range from black to super black. Greys have also been produced from these pairings but it’s not known if the parents carried a “grey” gene or if this is part of the polygenic spectrum when crossing these phases. The super black should not be considered a super form of the black since the super x super does not yield all supers.

Super black undergoing ontogenetic color change.

Adult female super black.

Gray Side

This is likely a naturally occurring phase in the wild. This is a variation of the black phase. The adult has gray and white covering the sides of the animal, leaving only black on the middle of the back.

Gray side Russian.

Grey

Greys are born with a similar dorsal color and pattern as super blacks, however never go through the extreme ontogenetic color change and retain the grey color and dark dorsal pattern into adulthood. A key characteristic distinguishing grey from super black, as juveniles, is belly color. They have grey bellies as babies, unlike the super blacks. Their bellies are somewhat of a purplish grey as they mature.

Grey Russian juvenile.

Albino

The albino is the first proven, simple recessive mutation known to exist in RSBs. These are thought to be T+ albinos and currently only reside in few collections in the U.S. Although more work is needed, it’s believed our collections may contain albino blacks, albino super blacks, and albino cinnamons.

Juvenile albino male.

The Golden Albino (presumed albino cinnamon).

Cinnamon

This is likely a naturally occurring phase in the wild. Juveniles have light brown dorsal color along with a dark gray or black pattern. Their bellies are not solid black, but instead are brown or orange with a mixture of black flecking. 

Subadult cinnamon female.

Obsidian

The Obsidian is a line bred phase of super black. This is an extremely reduced pattern, high-gloss super black phase. More information coming soon.