Amazon Tree Boa
From all the tree boas this is the most geographically widespread species. The Amazon tree boa like its common name implies inhabits the Amazon rainforest and are commonly found in high humidity arboreal regions.
But the species is also found in a wider variety of habitats including drier areas such as savannas or dry forests, secondary forests, woodland edges, near rivers and even agricultural lands. Although they can be found from sea level up to 3100 ft (950 m) most specimens are found below 1000 ft (300 m).
These are moderate sized snakes with a slender body, growing to an average size ranging from 5 to 6.5 feet (1.5 to 2 m) in length. Females are slightly bigger than males.
Very few if any snake species exhibit such an immense variety of color and patterns as the Amazon tree boa. Basically, their color can be anywhere from brown, gray and many shades of yellow, orange or red and quite a few other colors in between.
Some of these snakes are red with yellow patterns while others are yellow in color with red or orange patterns. Many specimens are banded, speckled, or covered in rhomboid or chevron shapes while other are totally patternless.
Two color "phases" are generally accepted, the "garden phase" and the "colored phase", both of which are genetically inherited. But unlike the Green tree python or the Emerald tree boa, the Amazon tree boa color doesn't change during their lifetime.
The "colored phase"' indicates the colorful snakes with a combination of red, orange, and yellow coloration. While the "garden phase" specimens are less colorful and covered with a more faded and dull coloration, consisting mostly of gray, brown or olive, with a variable pattern.
Their head has 5 dark stripes extending from the eyes which can be grayish, yellowish, or reddish, and also have a reflective membrane resulting in eyeshine at night.
The Amazon tree boa like its name indicates is an arboreal species usually found in trees and other vegetation, for that reason they have a long, strongly prehensile tail to help them move through the trees.
But sometimes they have been observed on the ground. The species is mostly nocturnal, but on occasion, they will bask on large branches during the day time.
Their main predators include the harpy eagle and probably the smaller crested eagle, saddleback tamarin and of course humans. It's believed that their color patterns serve as camouflage helping them evade predators during the day.
The Amazon tree boa is notoriously aggressive, and because of its temperament, the species was often overlooked in the exotic pet trade. hey aren't nearly as docile as the popular boa constrictor (Boa constrictor) or the ball python (Python regius) particularly wild-collected specimens.
Even so, they have become more popular among snake hobbyists and are commonly found in the pet trade. They live for approximately 20 years in captivity. The species is also known by other common names like common tree boa, garden tree boa or macabrel.
Subspecies / Taxonomy
The species was first described as Boa hortulana by Linnaeus in 1758. For about 60 years, until in 1996, the species was called Corallus enydris.
Some other recent taxonomic reviews have split the Amazon tree boa complex into 4 different species the Central American tree boa (C. ruschenbergerii), Cook's tree boa (C. cookii), Grenadian tree boa (C. grenadensis) and the Amazon tree boa.
Today there aren't any subspecies recognized by scientists for the Amazon tree boa.
Diet / Feeding
In the wild, the Amazon tree boa feeds mostly on rodents, bats, small mammals, small reptiles, frogs, insects, and even birds. Their diet changes as they grow juveniles will feed mostly on small lizards.
Like most boas, they possess labial pit organs with infrared-sensitive receptors, and in Amazon tree boas these are particularly large allowing them to sense heat very well. These superb ambush predators usually hunt at night and since they are non-venomous snakes and kill their prey by constriction.
But sometimes they will hunt during the day using their good eyesight. They will strike very fast quickly grabbing the prey using their sharp teeth. The Amazon tree boa then wraps its body in several coils around the prey and squeeze or constrict it until it dies in a few minutes.
Very little information is available on the Amazon tree boa mating in the wild, most relevant information comes from captive breeding. They are viviparous with females giving birth to live young, contrary to most snakes which lay eggs.
After a gestation period of about 6 to 8 months occurring from late summer to early winter, the baby snakes are born at the end of the rainy season. During this period females will bask in warm areas normally seeking some direct sunlight.
The usual litter averages about 5 to 20 younglings, around 12 inches (30 cm) in length and a 1/4 inch (6 mm) in diameter. Immediately after birth the neonates are capable of fending for themselves and will shed their skin for the first time 1 or 2 weeks after birth.
Amazon tree boas reach sexual maturity at about 3 years of age. They share their habitat with other members of the Corallus family and sometimes interbreed with the incredibly beautiful Emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus) producing a beautifully colored hybrid offspring.
Conservation / Threats
At the time the Amazon tree boa is listed as a Least Concern species based on its very large distribution which includes numerous protected areas, the lack of perceived widespread threats and a presumed fairly large population.
Some localized threats may exist since they require trees to live, the complete deforestation of an area will wipe them out. They are also the target of persecution by humans because of their similarities to other dangerous venomous viper and pit viper species.
The Amazon tree boa is included in CITES Appendix II.
Did You Know?
The hibernation period for snakes is called brumation, find more snake facts for kids.