Emerald tree boa

Corallus caninus

Emerald tree boas live in South American lowland rainforests in the Amazon Basin, in Venezuela, Columbia, Guyana, French Guiana, Surinam, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. They are carnivores. Emerald boas hang upside down to swallow their prey.

Emerald tree boa behavior and facts

  • Emerald tree boas are nocturnal (active at night) and arboreal (living in trees). The boa drapes itself over a horizontal branch and hangs its head down to ambush prey as it passes below.
  • As boas, they constrict prey, asphyxiating it. Prey animals include rodents, monkeys, squirrels and bats.
  • They have large pits along their jaw with heat sensing cells (more than most boas) they use to track prey. Their teeth are recurved (curved backward) to hold prey.
  • They move with a concertina or "inchworm" motion.
  • Juvenile snakes are brick-red or dull orange and turn emerald green over a 12 month period.
  • Their emerald color results from under-scales containing a layer of cells called xanthophores with yellow pigment, combined with a layer of cells called iridiphores with reflecting particles that reflect blue. This coloration is an adaptation to camouflage the snake from prey animals.
  • The white pattern on the dorsal surface (the back or upper surface) mimics spots of sunlight, also helping hide the snake from prey animals.

From birth to death

  • Breeds year round, usually every other year
  • Gestation: 6 to 7 months
  • Live young are born in litters of up to 20 snakes.
  • Sexual maturity: males 3 to 4 years; females 4 to 5 years
  • Lifespan: up to 25 years

Vital statistics

  • 6 feet long, up to 9 feet in the Amazon basin


Not listed

Boas, the Oregon Zoo and you

The zoo's emerald tree boas live in the Amazon Flooded Forest. Their diet consists of a mouse every two weeks.