Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii)

gold eyelash viper, bothrops schlegelii, venomous, central & south america
gold eyelash viper, bothrops schlegelii, venomous, central & south america
  • Name: Eyelash Viper
  • Latin: Bothriechis schlegelii
  • Classification: Reptile
  • Origin: South America
  • Lifespan: 15-20 years
  • AKA: Eyelash Mountain Viper, Eyelash Palm-Pitviper,
  • Schlegel’s ViperEyelash Pit Viper,Eyelash Snake,Horned Palm Viper,Schlegel’s Pit Viper,

Taxonomy

  • Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
  • Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrates)
  • Class: Reptilia (Reptiles)
  • Order: Squamata (Scaled Reptiles)
  • Family: Viperidae (Vipers)
  • Genus: Bothriechis (Venomous Pit Vipers)
  • Species: Bothriechis schlegelii (Eyelash Viper)

Appearance

  • Length: 45-75cm (18-30in)
  • Weight: 4.5-6.8kg (10-15lbs)

The eyelash viper is named for the bristly scales above its eyes and are one of the smallest poisonous snakes in Central America. They have a wide, triangular shaped head and can be yellow, green, brown or red in colouration. They have good binocular vision with vertical pupils along with large fangs which are located in the maxible and fold back when not in use. The eyelash viper is slightly sexually dimorphic as the females are bigger in size than the males; both have a prehensile tail used for locomotion through the trees.

Relatives

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  • Red Adder (Bitis rubida) -DATA DEFICIENT-
  • Saw Scaled Viper (Echis carinatus) -LEAST CONCERN-
  • Desert Viper (Daboia deserti) -LEAST CONCERN-
  • Rock Viper (Vipera raddei) -NEAR THREATENED-

Habitat & Distribution

The eyelash viper can be found inhabiting densely wooded, sea level forests, wooded cloud and montane forests and rainforests. They are arboreal and their local range is close to a source of water. They can be found in the canopy, in vine tangles and shrubbery.

Their global range extends from the south of Mexico, through Central America and down to Colombia, Ecuador and western Venezuela.

Map of Distribution of the Eyelash Viper
Map of Distribution of the Eyelash Viper

Diet

Adult eyelash vipers have a varied diet which includes small mammals, birds, nestlings, lizards and frogs (juveniles feed primarily on frogs). They are a typical ambush predator, can strike quick enough to capture hovering hummingbirds and kill by injecting hemotoxic venom into their prey.

These snakes are also known to return to selected ambush sites every year in time for the spring migration of birds. Studies have also indicated that ambush snakes can learn to improve the accuracy of their strikes over time (Webb et al 2001).

Eyelash vipers have also been known to partake in ‘caudal luring’ in which they move their prehensile tail in worm-like motions to encourage potential prey to move within striking distance.

Behaviour

The eyelash viper is largely nocturnal, arboreal and generally solitary. They are not known to be an aggressive serpent but will strike if harassed. Like most snakes, they routinely ‘flick’ their tongue in order to sense chemical changes in the air. The eyelash viper is an elusive animal and as such not much is known about the communication between individuals.

Reproduction

Eyelash vipers used the chemical sensing pits located on their heads to find potential mates. As part of courtship the males will partake in a ‘dance of the adders’ as competition for females, in which they will face one another in an upright position. They will then entwine with each other, trying to push the other’s head to the ground. This is typically a non-dangerous sport as biting does not occur and may continue for many hours.

Eyelash vipers will reproduce throughout the year in warm environments and the act of mating occurs at night. One fertilised, the females will incubate the eggs internally for approximately six months. These snakes are ovoviviparous, meaning the eggs will hatch inside the body where the young will complete their development. The brood size ranges from 2-20 young and they measure 15-20cm at birth. After birth, the mothers will invest very little time in raising the young as they are born to be immediately independent. The young will reach sexual maturity at 2 years of age.

Young Eyelash Viper
Young Eyelash Viper

Adaptations

  1. The ‘eyelashes’ of the viper breaks up the outline among the foliage and aids its camouflage.
  2. The eyelash viper has complex structures known as pit organs located in their heads. These are heat sensitive organs and help to identify the direction of potential prey, very useful for the snake when hunting at night.
  3. This snake has a prehensile tail which is used for locomotion through the trees. It also uses is for caudal luring, in which it will wiggle it in a worm-like motion to encourage prey to move within striking distance.
  4. The eyelash viper has rough scales which provide protection from rough branches and offer a ‘Velcro-like’ grip on the tree branches.

Threats

The eyelash viper suffers habitat loss from increased deforestation which is carried out for timber, agriculture and urbanisation. They are also often collected from the wild to stock the pet trade. Its natural predators include large mammals, other snakes and large raptors.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Not Evaluated

The eyelash viper is not considered a threatened species in any way and was removed from the CITES Appendix III in 2002.

Fun Facts

  • Male: Male snake
  • Female: Female snake
  • Young: Hatchling, Snakelet
  • Group: Bed, Nest, Pit
  • Has been inadvertently been sent throughout the world in banana shipments.
  • Was named after the German ornithologist, Hermann Schlegel.
  • There is a myth on some areas of South America, that the eyelash viper will wink, flashing its eyelashes at a victim, following a venomous strike.
  • It is one of the most common arboreal vipers collected and kept in captivity.

References

Bothriechis schlegelii [Online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bothriechis_schlegelii [Accessed: 13 January 2014]

Bothriechis schlegelii Eyelash Viper [Online] Available at: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Bothriechis_schlegelii/ [Accessed: 14 January 2013]

Eyelash Viper [Online] Available at: http://www.theanimalfiles.com/reptiles/snakes/viper_eyelash.html [Accessed: 13 January 2014]

Eyelash Viper [Online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Bothriechis_schlegelii [Accessed: 13 January 2014]

Fact Sheets [Online] Available at: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/ReptilesAmphibians/Facts/FactSheets/Eyelashpalmpitviper.cfm [Accessed: 13 January 2014]

Golden Eyelash Viper [Online] Available at: http://winghamwildlifepark.co.uk/animal/golden-eyelash-viper [Accessed: 14 January 2014]

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