Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Green Tree Python and Emerald Tree Boa.

I know, I know - another snake entry. You're probably getting sick of these, but this is an entry I've owed you all for almost two years, now. To sweeten the deal, it's a double header...with good reason.

Look at the two snakes below. Tell me if you can tell that they aren't the same species.

Despite looking very, very, very similar, the two snakes above are not even the same type of snake. The one on the left is a green tree python (Morelia viridis); the one on the right (with the large white stripes) is an emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus). The GTP is native to the rainforests of Indonesia and Australia; the ETB is native to the rainforests of South America.

So, fact blitz: Both the ETB and GTP are green, arboreal constrictors that get roughly 6 feet long as adults. The young ones are usually either red or yellow in color, changing to bright green within a year. Both snakes will also loop a coil or two over a branch and set their heads dead center. In captivity, it can be really, really hard to tell them apart.

Remember when I said that snakes had some crazy convergent evolution goin' on? This is exactly what I meant. These two snakes live nowhere near each other. Unlike lions and tigers, which are genetically close enough to reproduce even though they've been separated for thousands of years, ETB's and GTP's aren't genetically compatible. Their similarity is solely based on the evolutionary process; because they adapted to the same environments, eat the same food, and so forth, they evolved similar adaptations. In this case, they happen to be creepily similar.

Yeah, umm...I'd wear a glove, too. This is an ETB.

Similar does not mean identical. For example, the emerald tree boa has, proportionately, the largest fangs of any non-venomous snake. The ETB eats birds to warrant these super-long fangs; for whatever reason, GTPs do not. ETB's also have more apparent white on them than do GTP's as a rule. Also, GTP's are a lot more common in captivity in general, even sporting a blue morph.

A few handy tricks if you're stuck identifying a random green snake in a tree and somebody asks, "hey, what is that?":

~ Emerald Tree Boas are from South America. GTPs are from Asia and Australia. Location is one of the main dividing points, here.

~Boas have live babies; pythons lay eggs. Even if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's gotta give birth like a duck to really be a duck.

~ Those TEETH. We do not advise testing this in the wild by sticking your hand over the snake's head. Hell, we don't even advise trying this at home. Messing with those fangs sounds like a Jackass bit waiting to happen.

~ Both of these are rather thick-bodied. If the snake in question is slender, it's probably one of the many types of vine snakes or some other colubrid. Some people apparently do not know the difference, so there ya go.

A blue GTP. More here.

Both the emerald tree boa and green tree python have a strong following in the exotic pet trade. GTP's in particular have a huge fanbase, both because of their diverse color morphs as adults and their cross-compatibility with another Morelia complex known as carpet pythons (who also SO deserve their own entry!). The ETB base is a bit smaller, but they are nonetheless particularly popular in the Netherlands. Both of these species are intermediate-level snakes requiring elaborate enclosures with humidity setups etc. These are not snakes you take out and play with; these are snakes that you spend thousands on a nice, realistic terrarium setup for, then show your friends that.

1 comment:

  1. Being a huge boa fan, I found the Emerald a while back and found him beautiful, of course. I bing-ed around for information and images and learned a lot. One day, happened upon an image that just looked a bit off, but as you well know, no two snakes are alike. But it was labeled as a python. I scoffed and fled the page. I found many many more images intermingled with my Emerald. They were calling him a Green Tree Python! I'm thinking, these people are nuts. What's going on? Totally different bird here, ya know? Sooo, I did the unthinkable and did the vs. image search. I'm not a snake expert by any means. I just think they're beautiful. I've only owned one (a gorgeous cornsnake), so I could be mistaken but I didn't think so. To my amazement, BOTH snakes were real. There was actually a boa AND a python, and what's more? I couldn't tell them apart in most incedences. I was floored. I don't think I've ever seen two different species evolve so far apart in geographic location yet so similar in appearance. And though I had learned the science already, I appreciate the way you laid it out so simply for people to understand. I may only have learned that I'm not the only one that is fascinated by this, but that in and of itself is a treasure. I really thought it just another quirk of mine. So seeing it confused other people and meant enough to write about means a lot to me. So Thank you.