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Hidden gems of the jungle

Hi there! I’d like to tell you about one of the prettiest snake species we have here at Zoo Atlanta! They’re called Amazon Basin emerald tree boas (Corallus batesii). These beautiful gems are known for their colors. The main part of their body is a vibrant dark green color with a bright yellow belly and a striking white stripe along the back. There are white crossbars along that stripe that sometimes resemble barbed wire, diamonds, or shark teeth. These remarkable snakes can grow upwards of 7 feet long and have an average lifespan of 15-20 years.

Amazon Basin emerald tree boas are native to the South American rainforest. Specifically, along the basin of the Amazon River and surrounding jungle. They are arboreal and will spend most of their lives off the ground. Equipped with a prehensile tail and unbeatable sense of balance, they are perfectly adapted for life in the trees. Remember those colors they are known for? The shades and patterns of an emerald boa help them camouflage wonderfully into the basin canopy. Like almost all other boas, they have thermal receptor pits that function as heat-seeking sensors that allow them to see heat. These sensors, along with their brilliant camouflage, help make these guys excellent ambush predators. Typically, an emerald boa will stay coiled on a single branch, looping its body over both sides like a neat little bun with its head in the center. It’s a classic position these guys are known for. However, when it’s time to eat, the emerald boa will lower its head downward and patiently wait for a nibble to pass by. This species has fantastically long teeth. This allows them to successfully grab and wrap their food up, all while still staying suspended in the trees! Their diet typically consists of lizards, frogs, and a variety of small mammals. Since they don’t need to move around much, emerald boas don’t need to eat frequently. One meal every two to four weeks easily sustains them. Surprisingly enough, they poop even less often! Maybe only four to six times a year! Some believe, in the wild, emerald tree boas will poop only when it is raining to wash the scent away, helping them to avoid detection from predators. Now THAT’S dedication!

Basin emerald tree boas are ovoviviparous. This means that the female hatches the eggs inside her body and gives birth to live babies. Since the babies develop inside the mother, the pregnancy can last six to seven months long. A mother will usually give birth to seven to 18 babies at a time. These babies are already around 12 inches at birth! When born, they will have the same remarkable white vertebral stripe that their parents have, only they aren’t green! That’s right! The babies are born in shades anywhere from brown, to red, to orange! During their first year in the world, they will slowly go through their ontogenetic color change, eventually becoming that vibrant deep green this species is so famous for.

That’s all for now! It’s been great sharing facts about this beautiful species with you! Thank you so much! Next time you visit, don’t forget to swing by Scaly Slimy Spectacular to see these hidden gems of the jungle!

Sam J.
Keeper III, Herpetology

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