12/09/07

Even one data set can give you a ton of information. Once you get an idea of what is going on even one data point can be used to build a story around it. One of the fun things I like to do is have someone ask me when his/her boas is going to have babies. With as little as a single shed date it is possible with a little background history of breeding activity to guess when the due date is. I like to put my female's due dates on a calender before they have babies and see how close I can come to being accurate in my predictions. This really is more an attempt to show that under certain conditions the pattern of breeding, ovulation, and birth really is much more static than it appears to be. Sometimes the intervals and timing appears to be all over the map when you look at all of the data, but in a single environment it can be quite constant. Last year I  was able to predict within 24-48 hours the birth dates of all our producing females.  

So, lets look at the data set from the motley x motley breeding. First of all though I note the follicle growth using the ultrasound, you absolutely do not need an ultrasound to breed boas successfully. The ultrasound does not breed boas. What it does is give you a visual record of what you know is going on through your own observations. It is important to know the reproductive biology of both male and female snakes. If you are reading this blog the first thing you should do is order our book from this website "Pythons of the World Volume 2 Ball Pythons". Though the book is on Ball pythons, there are chapters on reproductive anatomy and reproduction with discussion, drawings and photos that absolutely apply to boas. The reproductive biology and concepts surrounding reproduction and genetics are the same for almost all snakes. The ball python is just the model for this book. Everything in the book in terms of care, breeding, etc.applies to your boas, except egg incubation information, which you'll need just in case you veer off the chosen path of boa devotion!

 The two most important data points are the shed dates. You can do all breeding of snakes based soley on keying on shed cycles. The shed cycle is a time for introduction of males to females. Though historically in the literature snakes were introduced "after the female freshly sheds," it turns out in our observations of both breeding pythons and boas, that when an adult female snake is opaque and throughout her shed cycle she may be courted and bred by an available interested male. The light finally dawned on us after seeing this happen repeatedly.  What better time for a male to secure a female? When she is laying there, not moving around, and in a deep shed!

Shed cycles are a great marker for follicle growth.  We see from the data the female had two sheds:11/13/07 and 01/29/07. The follicles grew from 20 mm to 38mm, essentially doubling their size to maturation in between these two shed cycles. The 01/29/07 shed was her post ovulation shed date.  We have learned from breeding pythons and boas,  a shed "normally" occurs approximately 20-30 days  post ovulation. Since we observed a shed 01/29/07, we can guess her actual ovulation date was some time between 12/31/06 and 01/10/07 .  I have a notation she was opaque 01/10/07 and her ovulation swell must have gone down by that time or I would have noted it.  I now  narrow the range of ovulation dates from 12/31/06-01/05/07.

We really don't know when or how many copulations are required for successful breeding. Theoretically common sense dictates that a single copulation will suffice. But is the timing of that copulation relevant? We really don't know. To cover our bases we feel better if we observe multiple copulations. You can see that this pair bred (that we observed) at least 4 times between 12/12/06-12/24/06.  These breedings occurred right before our predicted time of ovulation 12/31/06-01/05/07. Based on our observations of good success when there is solid breeding in close proximity to the ovulation date, I expected a good outcome.

Again, these observations don't mean that breeding close to ovulation is required for success. They are only observations. It is highly possible that a pair can mate one time 70 days prior to the female ovulating and it may result in a perfect litter. We won't know this until we either witness it or have the nerve to put a pair together let them breed one time and separate them and see what happens. I'm going to do that-next year!! Tracy