There are two subspecies of Amazon tree boa. Corallus hortulanus hortulanus occurs in the Guianas, Amazonia, and south-eastern Brazil (to the Tropic of Capricorn). Corallus hortulanus cooki is found in southern Central America, northern Columbia, northern Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, and the southern Windward Islands (St. Vincent and the Grenada Bank).
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
- Henderson, R. 1997. A Taxonomic Review of the Corallus hortulanus Complex of Neotropical Tree Boas. Caribbean Journal of Science, 33: 198-221. Accessed April 23, 2008 at http://academic.uprm.edu/publications/cjs/VOL33/P198-221.PDF.
Distribution: S Colombia (east of the Andes), S Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Brazil (Amazonas, Bahia), Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia; Trinidad, Tobago, Windward Islands.
Type locality: "America" [LINNAEUS 1758: 215]
Corallus cookii is well known for its highly variable color and patterns. They have small, claw-like remnants of vestigial hindlimbs in the cloacal region. Their base color varies from pale tan to black, with yellowish and reddish tinges. They are marked by a series of blotches or bands that are often broader in the middorsal area. The head has five dark stripes that extend from the eyes. The venter color is also variable, from cream to reddish brown, and either with or without darker markings. The eyes can be yellowish, grayish, or reddish, and they have a reflective membrane that results in eyeshine at night. The tongue is black. Males and females are similar in size and markings. They range from 525 to 1880 mm in length, usually from 1200 to 1500 mm (Martins & Oliveira 1999).
Range length: 525 to 1880 mm.
Average length: 1200-1500 mm.
Other Physical Features: heterothermic
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
Amazon tree boas are found in a wide variety of habitats. They are common in arboreal regions with high humidity, especially Amazon rainforest. They can also be found in dry areas such as savannas or dry forests (Huang 2006).
Most Corallus cookii specimens studied are found 1 to 2 m or more above the ground in trees or other vegetation. They have also been observed active on the ground. Amazon tree boas are also relatively common along rivers (Martins & Oliveira 1999).
Range elevation: 0 to 900 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest
Other Habitat Features: riparian
- Huang, P. 2006. "Introduction" (On-line). Corallus.com. Accessed April 23, 2008 at http://www.corallus.com/hortulanus/index.html.
- Martins, M., M. Oliveira. 1999. Natural history of snakes in forests of the Manaus region, Central Amazonia, Brazil. Herpetological Natural History, 6: 78-150. Accessed April 23, 2008 at http://eco.ib.usp.br/labvert/Martins&Oliveira-HNH-1999.pdf.
Amazon tree boas have been reported to eat: birds (including Chloroceryle inda, Coereba, Elaenia), bats (probably Phyllostomus bicolor, Myotis), frogs (Elachistocleis), rodents (Akodon, Mus, Rattus), lizards (Anolis, Basiliscus, Iguana), and marsupials (Marmosa). These observations suggest that Corallus cookii has a broad diet of mainly vertebrate prey.
Amazon tree boas hunt at night using their infrared sensitivity or during the day using vision. They are typically ambush hunters, sitting on a branch with the front part of their body hanging in an S-shaped curve from the branch. They can strike at prey that are a surprising distance from themselves. Prey are often pushed off the tree branch as they are struck, in which cases the snake will gather the body in several of its coils.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)
Corallus cookii are important predators of vertebrates in their native ecosystems.
It has been proposed that the color patterns of Amazon tree boas helps to camouflage them from predators during the day (Martins & Oliveira 1999).
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Life History and Behavior
Most members of the family Boidae possess infrared sensitive receptors in labial pit organs. Amazon tree boas have particularly large infrared pits, which allow them to sense heat well. An extensive study by Ebert et. al. (2006) examined the structure of these IR pits. They also have good eyesight that they use to hunt during the day. As are most snakes, Amazon tree boas are sensitive to vibrations and have good chemoreception, which is often used in communicating reproductive information.
Communication Channels: chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; infrared/heat ; acoustic ; vibrations ; chemical
Wild records of longevity are not available in the literature. Average lifespans for Amazon tree boas in captivity are approximately 20 years.
Status: captivity: 20 (high) years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
There is little information on wild mating. In an attempt to at least provide some relevant information, captive breeding techniques from one thorough description are summarized below:
Beginning in early November, evening temperatures drop from the stable summer temperatures of 77 to 78 degrees F to a nightly low of about 70 to 72 degrees F by the first week of December. This change is as gradual as possible in captivity. At the same time, a daytime high of 83 to 85 degrees F is introduced. These temperature gradients are important in triggering mating behaviors. After approximately 2 months of exposure to these new temperatures, most males will begin to display courtship behavior. Frequently males will shed shortly before beginning courtship. The courtship behavior consists of "tail-writhing" around the enclosure. After this has begun, the male and female are introduced and the male's courtship behavior will induce ovulation in the female. Females are also more receptive to mates if they are introduced shortly after a shed. Around March to April, the pair will have begun actively copulating. The snakes will copulate multiple times during this period. In captivity it is possible to have one female mate with multiple males, though this is not recommended as the males will often become highly aggressive and fight each other. In some cases, high levels of male aggression have been noted resulting in a dangerous situation for the female.
In Amazon tree boas, ovulation occurs in the female several weeks after copulation. During gestation period, females seek areas in direct sunlight or other warm areas to bask. Amazon tree boas give birth to live young. The gestation period is 6 to 8 months. Newborns will shed their skin 8 to 14 days after birth. After about 3 years, Amazon tree boas will reach sexual maturity.
Breeding interval: Amazon Tree Boas breed once yearly.
Breeding season: Copulation occurs between March and May.
Range gestation period: 175 to 200 days.
Average gestation period: 225 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; sexual ; induced ovulation ; ovoviviparous
After the young are born they are immediately independent of their mother. Male Amazon tree boas do not contribute to the care of their young.
Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female)
- Mendez, D. 2000. "Breeding Treeboas" (On-line). Urban Jungles. Accessed April 23, 2008 at http://www.urbanjungles.com/breedingtreeboas.htm.
Amazon tree boa populations are not considered to be at risk.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Amazon tree boas are aggressive and will attack humans without warning, though only adults pose any serious danger to humans as this species is non-venomous.
Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings)
Amazon tree boas are popular pets for snake hobbyists and are a fairly common export in the pet trade. About 3,000 of these snakes were exported live from Guiana in 2002, and 1,902 were exported from Suriname in the same year (CITES 2002).
Corallus cookii (also sometimes known as Corallus cookii) was once commonly traded. However, this type of tree boa is native to only one island (St. Vincent), which has stopped exporting herpetofauna for commercial purposes (Mendez 2001)
Positive Impacts: pet trade
- 2002. "Export quotas for specimens of species included in the CITES appendices for 2002" (On-line). Accessed April 23, 2008 at http://www.cites.org/common/quotas/2002/latest.pdf.
- Mendez, D. 2001. "An Introduction to Amazon Tree Boas by DM" (On-line). Accessed April 23, 2008 at http://www.urbanjungles.com/bamazontreeboasb.htm.
Adults grow to an average of 5 and 6.5 feet (1.5–2 m) in length. This species exhibits an immense variety of colors and patterns. The basic color can be anywhere from black, brown, or gray, to any shade of red, orange, yellow, or many colors in between. Some are totally patternless, while others may be speckled, banded, or saddled with rhomboid or chevron shapes. Some reds will have yellow patterns, some yellows red or orange patterns. Generally, there are two color 'phases' that are genetically inherited, but are not ontogenic as with the emerald tree boa,C. caninus and the green tree python, Morelia viridis. The 'garden phase' refers to boas with drab coloration, mostly brown or olive, with varied patterning, while the 'colored phase' refers to animals with combinations of red, orange, and yellow coloring.
Found in South America in southern Colombia east of the Andes, southern Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Amazonian Brazil, Costa Rica Ecuador, Peru, Trinidad & Tobago and Bolivia. The type locality given is "America."
Typically found below 300 m elevation.
These animals are notorious for being very aggressive, although as with all snakes this varies. These animals also have very long needle-like teeth which makes their bite quite painful. However these snakes tend to give some warning of being inclined to bite, and will usually give fairly gentle bites (which can still draw blood) unless they are given reason to give a full strike.
The aggressiveness is in part due to the species feeding cycle. The snakes are night time hunters, so they are in hunting mode when they are most likely to be handled by an owner. Being in a hunting mood and being that an owners hands are usually nice, hot and prey sized (Amazon Boas hunt mainly using their heat sensors) - people do get bitten, although as with most snakes, the animal will soon realize their mistake and let go, since they can recognize the smell of their owner. It is uncommon for a constrictor snake that knows the person handling it to strike and constrict the person, as they would a food item, unless the snake is very agitated.
These snakes are quite slim and don't have the mass of some of their other constrictor cousins such as the terrestrial Python, Boa and Rat/Corn snake species. Prospective owners however should be advised that while the snake is quite lightweight and gracile in comparison to some other species, it in no way means the Amazon Tree Boa is a weakling. It is more than capable of resisting being moved by both using its strength to anchor itself to the local surroundings, and if agitated striking to defend itself. Male snakes also have spurs under their tail by the vent (the bony remainder of the hips and back legs) and will flail their bodies to bring these into play. The spurs are also used to assist in mating.
A good tip to protect oneself from bites is to wear gloves of some description over the hands, this can shield the heat of the hands and therefore the snake is less likely to strike since it doesn't have a hot target to aim for.
- McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, vol. 1. Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
- "Corallus hortulanus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
- Mehrtens JM. 1987. Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
- Burnie D, Wilson DE. 2001. Animal. Dorling Kindersley. 624 pp. ISBN 0-7894-7764-5.
- Mattison C. 1999. Snake. DK Publishing. ISBN 0-7894-4660-X.
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