Published October 7, 2021. Open access.

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Amazon Tree-Boa (Corallus hortulana)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Serpentes | Boidae | Corallus hortulana

English common names: Amazon Tree-Boa, Common Tree Boa, Garden Tree Boa.

Spanish common names: Boa amazónica de jardín, boa arborícola amazónica, boa de los jardines (Ecuador); boa arborícola (Bolivia); boa arborícola del amazonas, macabrel (Colombia); boa arborícola amazónica (Peru).

Recognition: ♂♂ 164.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. ♀♀ 187.6 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail..1,2 The Amazon Tree-Boa (Corallus hortulana) can be identified from most other Amazonian snakes by having a triangular-shaped head wider than the neck, vertical pupils, heat-sensitive pits on the lips, compressed body in lateral view, and a prehensile tail (=capable of grasping).3,4 Corallus hortulana is a polychromatic boa. Dorsally, it presents a variable background coloration (yellow, gray, greenish gray, brown, taupe, pink, orange tan, reddish brown, or black) with a series of dorsoventrally arranged ellipsoid spots, which may be dark brown, yellow, or cream.36 These spots are widest in the mid-dorsal region and may be diamond-shaped on the anterior portion of the dorsum.4,5 The venter may present dark spots on a background color that can be white, cream, gray, brown, or reddish brown.25 In Ecuador, similar snakes that may be found living alongside C. hortulana are C. batesii, Epicrates cenchria, and Bothrops atrox. Corallus batesii differs from C. hortulana because this species has a green (reddish brown to yellow in juveniles)7 dorsum with enamel-white markings.8 The Rainbow Boa (E. cenchria) has an iridescent orangish dorsum and rounded spots with dark edges that are distinguished from the background color.4 The viper B. atrox can be differentiated from C. hortulana by not having heat-sensitive pits on the lips and by presenting keeled (with longitudinal ridges) dorsal scales.3

Figure showing an adult individual of Corallus hortulana

Figure 1: Individuals of Corallus hortulana from Río Cuyabeno, Sucumbíos province, Ecuador (); Suchipakari Lodge, Napo province, Ecuador (); Palmarí, Amazonas state, Brazil (); and Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos province, Ecuador (). ad=adult, j=juvenile.

Natural history: FrequentRecorded weekly in densities below five individuals per locality..9 Corallus hortulana is an arboreal snake that inhabits old growth to moderately disturbed rainforests, which may be terra-firme or seasonally flooded.2,4,612 The species also occurs in human-modified habitats and can even enter human dwellings located near patches of forest.9 Amazon Tree-Boas use vegetation between 0.3 and 25 m above the ground level and are particularly abundant along the margins of rivers and streams.4,614 Despite this, individuals can occasionally be found at ground level.4 Corallus hortulana has nocturnal habits, with greater activity during moonless nights and between sunset and midnight, with the majority of this time spent foraging.3,6,13,15 During the day, these boas can be observed coiled with the head hidden among body coils, resting on shaded vegetation, in hollow logs, or in the thatch of roofs.4,9,13,14 Notwithstanding, in Ecuador, an individual was recorded active during the morning (10:00 am) eating a prey,16 and in Brazil one individual was observed at 2:00 pm basking in the sun.17 Also, in Brazil two individuals were observed mating during the day.14

Corallus hortulana uses active foraging as well as sit-and-wait strategies to capture prey, though the latter approach seems to be more common in adults.4,15,18 This snake is euryphagic, which means it consumes a broad array of prey items. Its diet is composed of anurans (mostly treefrogs),19 lizards (anoles, basilisks,4 Iguana iguana, tropic lizards, and whiptails such as Ameiva ameiva),19 birds, and mammals (marsupials, bats, primates, porcupines, and rodents).4,1520 Likewise, it has been suggested that this snake occasionally consumes fish.21 Ontogenetic changes in diet have been documented for the species, in which juveniles and sub-adults feed on anurans, lizards, birds, and mammals, while adults consume only birds and mammals.18,19,22 There are records of the Crowned Dwarf-Caiman (Paleosuchus trigonatus),15 hawks,9 and owls (Tyto alba)23 preying upon Amazon Tree-Boas. When threatened, individuals of C. hortulana usually make an S-coil and strike.4,17 When manipulated, they can adopt a “protective ball posture,” as well as contract and rotate the body, regurgitate prey, and expel cloacal discharges.3,4,12,15

The reproductive season of Corallus hortulana can vary between locations. There are records of mating in May (in captivity),24 June,14 July,25 and September.14,26 Birth events having been reported from January to June, and in November.27,28 During copulation, the male entangles about 30% of its body around the female and performs movements with its head, including rubbing the chin against the female’s neck and head.26 In captivity, two males copulated for ~37 minutes with a female, without engaging in combat.24 After a gestation period of 6–7 months, females “give birth” (the eggs hatch within the mother) to 2–29 young that measure 28.2–64.4 cm in total length.24,2729 After birth, females may eat some of their young.29 Under human care, individuals can live up to 15 years.30

Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..3133 Corallus hortulana is listed in this category because it is widely distributed, occurs in numerous protected areas, has a relatively large and stable population, and is facing no major immediate extinction threats.31 However, this species can be particularly susceptible to large-scale deforestation, since it requires arboreal vegetation to survive.31 In addition, wild individuals of C. hortulana are marketed as pets, which is why the species is included in Appendix II of CITES.31,34,35

Distribution: Corallus hortulana is native to an estimated 207,837 km2 area throughout the Amazon basin in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.36 In Ecuador, the species has been recorded at elevations between 115 and 495 m (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Corallus hortulana in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Corallus hortulana in Ecuador. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Corallus comes from the old French word coral, which was the name given to dangerous savage and barbaric peoples in ancient times.37,38 This term refers to the fierce and perfidious appearance of the species of the genus, among which the anterior teeth of the maxilla and mandible stand out, which are longer than the posterior teeth.38 The specific epithet hortulana is a Latin word meaning “garden”.37 It refers to the variety of colorations that the species presents, reminiscent of a flowerbed.38

See it in the wild: Amazon Tree-Boas can be located with ~15–25% certainty in forest areas throughout their area of distribution in Ecuador. The localities having the greatest number of observations in Ecuador are Río Cuyabeno, Napo Wildlife Center, Sani Lodge, and Yasuní Scientific Station.

Special thanks to Chantelle Derez for symbolically adopting the Amazon Tree-Boa and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

Click here to adopt a species.

Authors: Juan Acosta-Ortiz,aAffiliation: Universidad de los Llanos. Villavicencio, Colombia. Andrés F. Aponte-Gutiérrez,bAffiliation: Grupo de Biodiversidad y Recursos Genéticos, Instituto de Genética, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia.,cAffiliation: Fundación Biodiversa Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia. and Leonardo Niño-CárdenasdAffiliation: Laboratorio de Anfibios, Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia.

Editor: Alejandro ArteagaeAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.

Photographers: Jose VieiraeAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,fAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Sebastián Di DoménicogAffiliation: Keeping Nature, Bogotá, Colombia.

How to cite? Acosta-Ortiz J, Aponte-Gutiérrez A, Niño-Cárdenas L (2021) Amazon Tree-Boa (Corallus hortulana). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J, Guayasamin JM (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/PANR5535

Literature cited:

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  2. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  3. de Fraga R, Lima AP, da Costa Prudente AL, Magnusson WE (2013) Guia de cobras da região de Manaus - Amazônia Central. Editopa Inpa, Manaus, 303 pp.
  4. Martins M, Oliveira ME (1998) Natural history of snakes in forests of the Manaus region, Central Amazonia, Brazil. Herpetological Natural History 6: 78–150.
  5. Henderson RW (1997) A taxonomic review of the Corallus hortulanus complex of neotropical tree boas. Caribbean Journal of Science 33: 198–221.
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  9. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
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  15. Henderson RW (2002) Neotropical treeboas: natural history of the Corallus hortulanus complex. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, 197 pp.
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  18. Henderson RW (1993) On the diets of some arboreal boids. Herpetological Natural History 1: 91–96.
  19. Pizzatto L, Marques OAV, Facure K (2009) Food habits of Brazilian boid snakes: overview and new data, with special reference to Corallus hortulanus. Amphibia-Reptilia 30: 533–544. DOI: 10.1163/156853809789647121
  20. Ribeiro-Júnior MA, Ferrari SF, Ferreira Lima JR, da Silva CR, Dias Lima J (2016) Predation of a squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus) by an Amazon Tree Boa (Corallus hortulanus): even small boids may be a potential threat to small-bodied platyrrhines. Primates 57: 317–322. DOI: 10.1007/s10329-016-0545-z
  21. Chippaux JP (1986) Les serpents de la Guyane Française. Institut Français de Recherche Scientifique pour le Développement en Coopération, Paris, 165 pp.
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  27. Pizzatto L, Marques OAV (2007) Reproductive ecology of Boinae snakes with emphasis on Brazilian species and a comparison to pythons. South American Journal of Herpetology 2: 107–122. DOI: 10.2994/1808-9798(2007)2[107:REOBSW]2.0.CO;2
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  30. Bowler JK (1975) Longevity of reptiles and amphibians in North American collections as of 1 November, 1975. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Herpetological Circular 6: 1–32.
  31. Calderón M, Ortega A, Nogueira C, Gagliardi G, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Hoogmoed M, Schargel W, Rivas G (2016) Corallus hortulanus. The IUCN red list of threatened species. DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T203210A2762194.en
  32. Carrillo E, Aldás A, Altamirano M, Ayala F, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Endara A, Márquez C, Morales M, Nogales F, Salvador P, Torres ML, Valencia J, Villamarín F, Yánez-Muñoz M, Zárate P (2005) Lista roja de los reptiles del Ecuador. Fundación Novum Millenium, Quito, 46 pp.
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  34. Reynolds RG, Henderson RW (2018) Boas of the World (Superfamily Booidae): a checklist with systematic, taxonomic, and conservation assessments. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 162: 1–58. DOI: 10.3099/MCZ48.1
  35. UNEP-WCMC (2014) Review of species selected on the basis of the analysis of 2014 CITES export quotas. UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, 66 pp.
  36. Nogueira CC, Argôlo AJS, Arzamendia V, Azevedo JA, Barbo FE, Bérnils RS, Bolochio BE, Borges-Martins M, Brasil-Godinho M, Braz H, Buononato MA, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Colli GR, Costa HC, Franco FL, Giraudo A, Gonzalez RC, Guedes T, Hoogmoed MS, Marques OAV, Montingelli GG, Passos P, Prudente ALC, Rivas GA, Sanchez PM, Serrano FC, Silva NJ, Strüssmann C, Vieira-Alencar JPS, Zaher H, Sawaya RJ, Martins M (2019) Atlas of Brazilian snakes: verified point-locality maps to mitigate the Wallacean shortfall in a megadiverse snake fauna. South American Journal of Herpetology 14: 1–274. DOI: 10.2994/SAJH-D-19-00120.1
  37. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
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Appendix 1: Locality data used to create the distribution map of Corallus hortulana in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used.

ColombiaCaquetáBelén de los Andaquíes, 3 km NW ofiNaturalist
ColombiaPutumayoPuerto AsísiNaturalist
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCusuimeOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMiazalNogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorMorona SantiagoNayumbimeNogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorMorona SantiagoRío CusuimeHenderson et al. 2009
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSantiago de TiwintzaNogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorNapoGareno LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorNapoHuaorani LodgeANF-1427
EcuadorNapoJatun Sacha Biological StationiNaturalist
EcuadorNapoRío PayaminoiNaturalist
EcuadorNapoSinchi SachaPhoto by Ernesto Arbeláez
EcuadorNapoYachana ReserveWhitworth & Beirne 2011
EcuadorOrellanaCampo NPFPhoto by Paulina Romero
EcuadorOrellanaCampo Yuturi, 7 km NW ofiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaCominudad Shuar Nunkui y KunkutYanez-Muñoz et al. 2017
EcuadorOrellanaCononacoNogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorOrellanaDícaro, 24 km downstream from, on Río YasuníMaría José Quiroz, pers. comm.
EcuadorOrellanaECY–Tiputini 1Photo by Francisco Sornoza
EcuadorOrellanaECY, 2 km SE ofiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaECY, 8 km NW ofiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaEl Edén Amazon LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaInés ArangoHenderson 1997
EcuadorOrellanaIshpingo Pakcha, 5 km NE ofiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaLos LaurelesiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaNPF, 5 km W ofiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaNuevo RocafuerteNogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorOrellanaÑunenoNogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorOrellanaNWC, senderosiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaRío AñanguiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaRío Yasuní, near lake JatuncochaThis work
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaShiripuno LodgePhoto by Fernando Vaca
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity StationiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaTres de NoviembreHenderson 1997
EcuadorOrellanaVia Pompeya South–Iro, km 77 Photo by Morley Read
EcuadorOrellanaVía Pompeya Sur–Iro, Km 90Photo by Morley Read
EcuadorOrellanaYarina Eco LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaYasuní Scientific StationYanez-Muñoz et al. 2017
EcuadorPastazaAlto CurarayHenderson 1997
EcuadorPastazaArajuno, 7 km NE ofiNaturalist
EcuadorPastazaBalsauraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaCampamento Petrolero Villano BQCAZ 8145
EcuadorPastazaCampo VillanoThis work
EcuadorPastazaComunidad Puka YakuFreddy Velásquez, pers. comm.
EcuadorPastazaCuraray MedioThis work
EcuadorPastazaJuyuintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaKurintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaLorocachiOnline multimedia
EcuadorPastazaMontalvoHenderson 1997
EcuadorPastazaPavacachiUSNM 204091
EcuadorPastazaPindoyacuOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaRío ChambiraHenderson 1997
EcuadorPastazaRío RutunoUSNM 204093
EcuadorPastazaRío Tigre USNM 204092
EcuadorPastazaSarayacuHenderson 1997
EcuadorPastazaVillano, 7 km NE ofiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbiosCofán Bermejo Ecological ReserveYanez-Muñoz et al. 2017
EcuadorSucumbiosPlayas del CuyabenoUIMNH 61194
EcuadorSucumbiosRío GüeppiYanez-Muñoz et al. 2017
EcuadorSucumbiosSector Tarsipao IIYanez-Muñoz et al. 2017
EcuadorSucumbíosAdhán PayahüajeNogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorSucumbíosAguas Negras LodgeThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosBatallón TungurahuaNogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorSucumbíosCaiman LodgeThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosCasa Payaguaje, 3 km NW ofNogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorSucumbíosCentinelaOMNH 36516.0
EcuadorSucumbíosComunidad Sani IslaiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosComunidad Zábalo, 5.6 km E ofiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosCuyabeno River LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosDurenoNogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorSucumbíosDureno, 10 km N ofiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosHeron Lake, 1.2 km N ofiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosLa Selva LodgeThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosLago AgrioiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosLaguna GrandeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosLaguna Grande, 1.3 km S ofiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncocha Biological ReserveHenderson 1997
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncocha, 2 km NW ofNogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorSucumbíosLoracachiThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosNapo Wildlife CenterThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosNicky Amazon LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosParque Recreativo Lago AgrioiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosPiranha EcolodgeOnline multimedia
EcuadorSucumbíosProvidencia, 2.5 km NE ofiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosReserva Cuyabeno, near Ecuador-Peru borderiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosRío Aguarico Nogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorSucumbíosRío Aguarico, near mouth of Río PacuyacuiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosRío CuyabenoiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosRío Cuyabeno, near Amazon Dolphin LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosRío Cuyabeno, near Hot Spots lodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosRío Cuyabeno, near Piranha EcolodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosRío Cuyabeno, nearby Bamboo LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosRío ZábaloiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosRío Zábalo campThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosSacha LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosSani LodgeThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta CeciliaNogueira et al. 2019
EcuadorSucumbíosShushufindi, 4 km N ofiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosTapir lodgeThis work
PeruAmazonasEl CenepaUSNM 316565
PeruAmazonasRío SantiagoUSNM 566706
PeruLoretoPastazaHenderson 1997
PeruLoretoPuerto CaveroiNaturalist
PeruLoretoRío Lagartococha USNM 521053
PeruLoretoTeniente Manuel ClaveroHenderson 1997