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What is an Arboreal Snake? - Definition & Species

Instructor: Amanda Robb
In this lesson, we'll be traveling to treetops around the world to learn about arboreal snakes. We'll learn what makes this type of snake unique and examine different its different types.

What Are Arboreal Snakes?

Picture walking through the jungle on vacation. You've traveled to observe the brightly-colored birds, unique flowers, and hopefully spot a tree dwelling mammal, like a monkey. You keep your eyes peeled as you walk, but so far all you see is green all around you, no animals yet. However, your guide stops you and points out a splash of white in the trees. Using your binoculars you see a beautiful green snake with white markings, slithering through the tree branches.

These snakes are called arboreal snakes, meaning they spend most of their life in the trees, compared to the classic ground-dwelling snakes most of us are used to seeing. There are several true arboreal species of snake, and in this lesson we will look at five.

Emerald Tree Boa

Stretching up to ten feet long, this beautiful, green arboreal snake lives only in the Amazon Basin. The emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus) takes its name from its bright green skin, sometimes with white markings. It is exclusively nocturnal and usually chooses to live alone, unless it is breeding season.

Emerald tree boa
emerald tree boa

At night, the emerald boa comes out to hunt. Draping itself along a branch, it hangs its head down, waiting for unsuspecting pray to skitter past. When a small mammal such as a mouse come near, the emerald boa strikes out with razor sharp teeth. Although it is not a poisonous snake, the teeth prevent prey from escaping while the snake wraps its muscular body around its prey. It then constricts the prey, suffocating it before devouring it whole.

Bamboo Pit Viper

Pit vipers are a family of snakes that have two poisonous fangs to inject venom into their prey. They find their victims using heat sensing pit organs, hence the name pit viper. The bamboo pit viper (Trimeresurus gramineus) is a small (about two feet long) viper endemic to India.

The bamboo pit viper can be recognized by its beautiful yellow and green scales and flat, diamond-shaped head. However, if you ever see one in the wild, be sure to observe from a distance. Like all pit vipers, the bamboo pit viper is poisonous and can cause pain, swelling, necrosis, and even fatality in some situations.

A bamboo pit viper
bamboo pit viper

Asian Vine Snake

The Asian vine snake (Ahaetulla prasina) is a thin, arboreal snake living in southern Asia. Long and slender, this snake has a finely pointed head with fluorescent green scales. Other species of vine snake vary in color, with African vine snakes being more brown than green. The Asian vine snake can grow to nearly six feet in length, but unlike tree vipers, it is only mildly venomous and is not dangerous to humans.

Unlike the visible front fangs in pit vipers, vine snakes are rear-fanged, meaning they have fangs in the back of their mouth. The fangs are usually grooved as well, not smooth like front fangs. Venom glands in the back of the mouth supply the rear fangs with poison to subdue their prey.

Green Tree Python

In the green forests of Australia, New Guinea, and their islands lives the green tree python (Morelia viridis). Upon first glance the green tree python looks nearly identical to the emerald green boa in South America. However, the species are actually not closely related at all. They both evolved similar appearances due to their habitat in the jungle.

Although distantly related the green tree python closely resembles the emerald boa
green tree python

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