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Two emerald tree boas coil their long vividly green bodies into tight coils over and around a tree branch in Amazon Rising.

Emerald Tree Boa

Emerald tree boas rely on sight and infrared “vision” to hunt at night. A snake’s vertical pupils expand to admit as much light as possible so it can detect the movement of small mammals and lizards on the ground. Heat-sensing pits around its mouth produce a precise thermal image of its surroundings, enabling the slender constrictor to accurately intercept its warm-blooded prey in the dark.

Grow into green

At birth, an emerald tree boa can be anything from yellow-orange to brick red. Not emerald. But during its first year, it develops the bright green color, usually broken up by zigzagging white bands that look like dappled sunlight or leaf patterns as the snake rests coiled on a tree branch during the day.

A close up of an emerald tree boa's wedge-shaped head, seated in profile in a nest of its own coils wrapped around a branch. The snake's small eyes are set near the top of its head, its long jaw stretching almost the entire length of its skull.
An emerald tree boa curls its sinuous body around a branch at Shedd Aquarium.

Hunter from above

All boas have a prehensile tail that can grip a branch like a fist. Poised head down in an S-curve from a low branch, an emerald tree boa can lunge up, down, or out to grab its prey, then throw a few coils of its body around it and constrict until the animal suffocates. (Boas are not venomous.) Then it retreats to a branch to swallow its meal whole. These snakes seldom leave their leafy canopy for the ground except to move to another tree, deftly climbing the trunk to safety again. Or at least relative safety: Emerald tree boas are hunted by eagles.