Emerald Tree Boa

ORDER: Squamata

FAMILY: Boidae

GENUS: Corallus

SPECIES: caninus

An arboreal boa with a large bulky head, thin neck, stout body (can be over 2 inches in diameter) and strong prehensile tail. Pupils are vertically oriented like a cat. Color and pattern depends on locality but in general adults have brilliant green coloration with white to yellow underside and whitish or yellowish bands or blotches. Juveniles are a varied shade of yellow or red or a combination of those colors and green. As with all boas, they have spurs (anal claws) on both sides of the cloaca. Average adult size is between 4 and 6 feet, although those from the Amazon Basin average 7 to 9 feet and may reach as much as ten feet in length.

Rainforest of northern South America - Amazon basin from Venezuela through Brazil to northern Bolivia.

Birds, rats, monkeys, bats, squirrels and lizards. Kills by constriction or may just crush prey with its strong teeth and jaws. In captivity they are fed every two weeks on mice.

Strictly arboreal and largely nocturnal. Breeds from February to April. Gestation period is in excess of 250 days. Bears 10 to 20 live young, each of which weighs about one and one half ounce and is a foot long. Young are given no maternal care and fend for themselves. At four months of age they start to develop green coloration. Boas live solitary lives except when mating. Life span is 15 to 25 years in captivity.

The body is compressed laterally which allows it to press close to the tree branches. Long powerful fore teeth enable tree boas to penetrate the feathers of birds and hold on to them; in fact they are an advantage in holding any prey and keeping it from dropping to the ground. Heat sensing labial pits located on the upper lip aid in detecting potential food or predators.

The species name "caninus" has been applied because the posterior bulges on the head and angled snout cause it to resemble the profile of a dog. In addition its elongated maxillary teeth look like the canine teeth of a dog. Theories to account for juvenile coloration being different from adults is that they may inhabit a different environmental niche from the adults (low bushes) and/or they mimic the arboreal multicolored vipers of Central and South America which helps against predation. As they mature they turn to camouflage instead of mimicry. Uses the "concertina" method of tree climbing. It holds on to the trunk with its tail and lower part of its body, reaches up with its head and hooks its neck around the trunk. Then it releases its hold with the tail and pulls the rear part of its body up to the level of the neck. This boa is a primitive snake with two lungs and the remnants of a hip girdle.

1 Male. 2 Females.

Not endangered, but loss of habitat is a concern. Its main predators are eagles (Guianan Crested Eagle and Harpy Eagle).


  1. Grzimek, Bernhard. 1984. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia Vol. 6. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co, New York City, NY, pp. 377.
  2. Huang, Paul. "Emerald Tree Boa; Part two. Natural History". 2000. Internet: http:// central pets.com.
  3. Internet: phoenixzoo. org; rogerwilliamszoo.org. 2000.
  4. Pinney, Roy. The Snake Book. 1981. Doubleday & Co., Garden City, NY. p.111.
  5. Stidworthy, John. Snakes of the World. 1971. Grosset & Dunlap, Inc., p.49.