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Overview

Brief Summary

Bothriechis schlegelii, commonly called the eyelash viper, is a medium-sized pit viper with a triangular head and a slender body well suited for its arboreal lifestyle. The common name comes from the two to three raised scales, or “eyelashes,” above its eye. This species has a bright yellow morph, commonly called “oropel” after the Spanish expression for “skin of gold,” and most other morphs, including the most common one which has mottled green, brown, and gray coloration, are called “bocaraca.” This species appears to act as an ambush predator during the day, sitting motionless for long periods of time waiting for potential prey items to approach, but some evidence suggests it may also forage more actively at night. Like all pit vipers, B. schlegelii possesses heat sensitive pits on its upper lip. These pits allow the snake to detect infrared radiation with very high precision, helping it find prey at night. This species is most commonly found in vegetation 1-1.5 m above the ground, thus, has a tendency to bite in the upper body when startled by humans. While the venom of B. schlegelii can be fatal to humans, it is less toxic than that of many other pit vipers, and with proper medical treatment most bite victims survive.

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The Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii), known as “bocaracá” in Costa Rica, is a medium-sized (maximum total length ~80 cm) arboreal and highly venomous pit viper that feeds on a variety of small vertebrates including frogs, lizards, birds, bats, rodents, and marsupials. It is found in lowland and premontane wet forests from almost sea level to 2640 m (across most of its distribution, it occurs mostly at the lower end of this range; other Bothriechis species are generally not found at low elevations). The range of the Eyelash Viper extends from Chiapas, Mexico, to northwestern Ecuador and western Venezuela. (Lomonte et al. 2008 and references therein; Sorrell 2009 and references therein)

Eyelash Vipers may be found in a range of colors, including green, brown, rust, gray, light blue, and (in Costa Rica) golden yellow. The "eyelashes" that give this snake its name are actually hoodlike scales over each eye. These snakes are responsible for a number of human fatalities each year, generally resulting from people overlooking these motionless, well camouflaged vipers when climbing trees or reaching into tree branches or clusters of fruit. (Henderson et al. 2010) The facial pits of pit vipers such as the Eyelash Viper and many others were at one time believed to be used only for locating warm-blooded prey, but these heat-sensing structures have now been shown to play an important role in facilitating behavioral thermoregulation (Krochmal et al. 2004).

Sorrell (2009) studied diel patterns of movement and predatory behavior of Eyelash Vipers in an Atlantic lowland tropical moist forest in Panama. During the day, Eyelash Vipers were most frequently found motionless in a hunting posture (i.e., with the body positioned for a strike and facing an object that could serve as a prey runway such as a branch, liana, tree bole, or tree buttress). Individuals were significantly more likely to move between perches at night than during the day. Sorrell was able to identify ten prey items representing seven taxa; five of these prey species had not previously been reported as Eyelash Viper food items. Combined with literature records, Sorrell tallied a total of 15 prey categories (mostly identified to species), seven of them mainly diurnal and eight mainly nocturnal. He notes that the list of Eyelash Viper prey items includes frogs, indicating that this species actively forages at night because sedentary, nocturnal prey items (e.g., Eleutherodactylus frogs) are unlikely to be encountered by a snake using only ambush methods. (Lomonte et al. (2008) and references therein; Sorrell 2009 and references therein)

Castoe et. al. (2009) studied the phylogeographic and biogeographic history of New World pitvipers, focusing on three genera (Atropoides [the jumping pitvipers], Bothriechis [the palm pitvipers], and Cerrophidion [the montane pitvipers]) that are broadly co-distributed across the highlands of Middle America. According to their analyses, the extant sister species to B. schlegelii is B. supraciliaris of southwestern Costa Rica (a formerly synonymized species [Werman 1984 and references therein] restored to species rank by Solorzano et al. 1998). This supports the finding by Taggart et al. (2001).

Antonio (1980) described the courtship and copulatory behavior of a pair of captive Eyelash Vipers from Honduras, as well as some preliminary data on the genetics of coloration in this species.

Lomonte et al. (2008) characterized the venoms of B. schlegelii and B. lateralis with respect to their protein composition and investigated which protein species within these snake venoms are effectively recognized and immunoprecipitated by the polyvalent antivenom manufactured at the Instituto Clodomiro Picado (University of Costa Rica), which is made using a mixture of venoms from three different three pitvipers (B. asper, Crotalus durissus durissus, and Lachesis stenophrys).

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Distribution

Bothriechis schlegelii has an extensive range from southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, and western Venezuela (Leenders 2001).

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Geographic Range

Eyelash pit vipers, also known as eyelash palm pit vipers (Bothriechis schlegelii), are widely distributed throughout moist lowland and montane forests from Chiapas, Mexico (the southernmost state in Mexico), through northwestern Ecuador and western Venezuela. In Central America and northern South America, they occur in portions of Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. This species is considered to be one of the most widely distributed of the arboreal vipers.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )

  • Berthold, 2010. "Bothriechis schlegelii (Berthold, 1846)" (On-line). The Reptile Database. Accessed September 17, 2010 at http://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species.php?genus=Bothriechis&species=schlegelii.
  • O'Shea, M. 2005. Venomous Snakes of the World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Parkinson, C. 1999. Molecular systematics and geographical history of pitvipers as determined by mitochondrial ribosomal dna sequences. Copeia, 1999/3: 576-586.
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Continent: Middle-America
Distribution: Mexico (Liner 1994), Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras [HR 30: 112], Nicaragua (JANSEN & KÖHLER 2003), Panama, Ecuador (Manabí [HR 32: 58]), Venezuela (KORNACKER 1999), Peru (LEHR 2002); elevation (Honduras): 860 m, 0-2500 m (Colombia)  
Type locality: Popayan, Colombia.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Bothriechis schlegelii is a medium-sized pit viper with a relatively short tail that seldom exceeds 20% of the total length. The numerous small scales on the upper anterior portion of the head are keeled. The internasals, numbering four or five on each side, as well as the canthals and supraoculars, are larger and smooth. There are one to three, usually two, “flexible flattened elongate supraciliary scales” (Savage 2002) on the upper edge of the eyelid; these scales resemble eyelashes and are responsible for this species’ common name, the eyelash viper. The loreal scale is divided, and there is one preocular, one (occasionally two) suboculars, and two or three postoculars with raised processes. There are usually eight but occasionally as many as ten supralabials, and ten to thirteen infralabials. The temporal scales are strongly keeled. The dorsal scales are “25 to 27-21 to 25-17 to 21 (middorsal mode 23)” (Savage 2002), with the lateral-most rows smooth. There are 137-169 ventrals and 42-64 subcaudals (Savage 2002).

Two color morphs are present in this species. One is almost entirely bright yellow, although it may be lightly spotted with black, green, and/or red. Dorsal coloration in the other is “bright yellow, pink, green, olive green, silver, to dark gray green or charcoal” in a mottled pattern that may include light spots, bands, or blotches with dark borders. A dark mid-dorsal stripe is rarely present. The tip of the tail is yellow to green, and the belly is pale yellow and often has dark spots, stripes, or other markings. The iris may be yellow to beige, and the tongue is brown. The hemipenes have 16-24 large basal spines and “enlarged mesial spines facing [the] crotch” (Savage 2002).

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Physical Description

The genus Bothriechis is represented by nine species, each characterized by the presence of a prehensile tail (used for climbing) and typically bright green or yellow dorsal coloration. Eyelash pit vipers are extremely variable in appearance, displaying a wide range of color morphs within populations and even within litters. This species is unusual, as its dorsal ground color is most often olive green. Other color morphs common in eyelash pit vipers are bright yellow, pink, green, silver or dark grey, or brown. Yellow eyelash pit vipers typically show little additional coloration, whereas other morphs typically have speckled markings or crossbands of black, green, red, orange, yellow, and/or silver or pale green. In all morphs, the tip of the tail is yellow or green and the ventral body surface pale yellow, sometimes with darker mottles or stripes.

Habitat plays an important role in eyelash pit viper coloration, as they rely heavily on camouflage when ambushing prey. Yellow eyelash pit vipers often inhabit areas where bananas are plentiful, as they are capable of blending in with the brightly colored fruits. Here they wait to ambush bats or other organisms that visit to feed on the bananas. Similarly, eyelash pit vipers with red coloration will camouflage themselves within red-colored bromeliads, where they ambush and feed on small amphibians.

Bothriechis schlegelii is considered a small- to medium-sized pit viper. Adult body length ranges from 55 to 82 cm, with females (35 to 82 cm) typically longer and more variable in size than males (37 to 69 cm). The tail is short to moderate, comprising 13 to 19% of total body length.

Because of their arboreal habit, eyelash pit vipers weigh less and are considerably shorter than most terrestrial pit vipers (in comparison to fer-de-lances or bushmasters). This size difference has been attributed to the habitats in which they live and the manner in which they feed. In particular, these snakes must be small and light to effectively maneuver through shrubs and trees and avoid perception by prey.

Eyelash pit vipers are named for the small, bristly, keeled scales just above each eye. The function of these "eyelashes" or horn-like modified scales is not clear, but it has been suggested that they protect the eyes as the snake moves through dense vegetation. In contrast to the lance-shaped heads of closely related vipers in the genus Bothrops, eyelash pit vipers have relatively wide, triangular heads. Their fangs are relatively long and can deliver a venomous bite to prey.

The scales of eyelash pit vipers are rough to the touch or keeled. This distinguishes eyelash pit vipers from other snake species such as 'fer-de-lances Bothrops colombiensis' and 'bushmasters Lachesis muta' that have smooth scales. The smooth scales of other species allow them to glide quickly over a wide variety of surfaces. Instead, the rough scales of eyelash pit vipers provide protection from rough branches and allow for a "velcro-like" grip that aids in moving and anchoring on vines in their arboreal habitat.

Range length: 35 to 82 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; venomous

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

  • Guyer, C., M. Donnelly. 1990. Length-mass relationships among an assemblage of tropical snakes in Costa Rica. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 6/1: 65-76.
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Size

Most adult Bothriechis schlegelii are 50-60 cm long (Leenders 2001), however, adult males range from 37.5-68.7 cm in total length, and adult females range from 34.7-82.0 cm in total length. Neonates are 17.1-22.5 cm in total length (Savage 2002).

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Diagnostic Description

This moderately sized snake is most easily identified by the two to three supraciliary scales or “eyelashes” above its eye. This species occurs in two different color morphs: an unmistakable bright yellow morph, and a more common morph with a cryptic pattern of mottled green, brown, and yellow colors. The scales are keeled, possessing a pronounced ridge along the middle. The head of B. schlegelii is triangular, with a clearly visible thermal pit between the eye and the nostril (Savage 2002, Guyer and Donnelly 2005).

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Look Alikes

The lichen-colored slugeater Sibon longifrenis appears to mimic the coloration and defensive behavior of the green morph of Bothriechis schlegelii, but the latter can be distinguished by its supraciliary (“eyelash”) scales and the loreal pit characteristic of pit vipers. Both of these features are lacking in S. longifrenis, a colubrid. The western tree snake Imantodes inornatus, another colubrid, can also be mistaken for the green morph of B. schlegelii, but in addition to the lacking supraciliary scales and loreal pit, the former’s eyes are large and protuberant, and its head is blunter than that of B. schlegelii. No other snake in this species’ range resembles its yellow morph (Savage 2002, Guyer and Donnelly 2005).

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Ecology

Habitat

Mesoamerican Gulf-Caribbean Mangroves Habitat

This taxon is found in the Mesoamerican Gulf-Caribbean mangroves ecoregion, but not necessarily exclusive to this region.The Mesoamerican Gulf-Caribbean mangroves occupy a long expanse of disjunctive coastal zone along the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico for portions of Central America and Mexico. The ecoregion has a very high biodiversity and species richness of mammals, amphibians and reptiles. As with most mangrove systmems, the Mesoamerican Gulf-Caribbean ecoregion plays an important role in shoreline erosion prevention from Atlantic hurricanes and storms; in addition these mangroves are significant in their function as a nursery for coastal fishes, turtles and other marine organisms.

This disjunctive Neotropical ecoregion is comprised of elements lying along the Gulf of Mexico coastline of Mexico south of the Tampico area, and along the Caribbean Sea exposures of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.There are 507 distinct vertebrate species that have been recorded in the Mesoamerican Gulf-Caribbean mangroves ecoregion.

Chief mangrove tree species found in the central portion of the ecoregion (e.g. Belize) are White Mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa), Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), and Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans); Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) is a related tree associate. Red mangrove tends to occupy the more seaward niches, while Black mangrove tends to dominate the more upland niches. Other plant associates occurring in this central part of the ecoregion are Swamp Caway (Pterocarpus officinalis), Provision Tree (Pachira auatica) and Marsh Fern (Acrostichum aureum).

The Mesoamerican Gulf-Caribbean mangroves ecoregion has a number of mammalian species, including: Mexican Agouti (Dasyprocta mexicana, CR); Mexican Black Howler Monkey (Alouatta pigra, EN); Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii, EN); Central American Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi, EN); Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla); Deppe's Squirrel (Sciurus deppei), who ranges from Tamaulipas, Mexico to the Atlantic versant of Costa Rica; Jaguar (Panthera onca, NT), which requires a large home range and hence would typically move between the mangroves and more upland moist forests; Margay (Leopardus wiedii, NT); Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata); Mexican Big-eared Bat (Plecotus mexicanus, NT), a species found in the mangroves, but who mostly roosts in higher elevation caves; Central American Cacomistle (Bassariscus sumichrasti).

A number of reptiles have been recorded within the ecoregion including the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas, EN); Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata, CR); Central American River Turtle (Dermatemys mawii, CR), distributed along the Atlantic drainages of southern Mexico to Guatemala; Morelets Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii, LR/CD), a crocodile found along the mangroves of Yucatan, Belize and the Atlantic versant of Guatemala.

Some of the other reptiles found in this ecoregion are the Adorned Graceful Brown Snake (Rhadinaea decorata); Allen's Coral Snake (Micrurus alleni); Eyelash Palm Pitviper (Bothriechis schlegelii); False Fer-de-lance (Xenodon rabdocephalus); Blood Snake (Stenorrhina freminvillei); Bridled Anole (Anolis frenatus); Chocolate Anole (Anolis chocorum), found in Panamanian and Colombian lowland and mangrove subcoastal forests; Furrowed Wood Turtle (Rhinoclemmys areolata. NT); Brown Wood Turtle (LR/NT); Belize Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus insularis), which occurs only in this ecoregion along with the Peten-Veracruz moist forests.

Salamanders found in this ecoregion are: Cukra Climbing Salamander (Bolitoglossa striatula); Rufescent Salamander (Bolitoglossa rufescens); Alta Verapaz Salamander (Bolitoglossa dofleini, NT), the largest tropical lungless salamander, whose coastal range spans Honduras, Guatemala and the Cayo District of Belize; Colombian Worm Salamander (Oedipina parvipes), which occurs from central Panama to Colombia; La Loma Salamander (Bolitoglossa colonnea), a limited range taxon occurring only in portions of Costa Rica and Panama;.Central American Worm Salamander (Oedipina elongata), who inhabits very moist habitats; Cienega Colorado Worm Salamander (Oedipina uniformis, NT), a limited range taxon found only in parts of Costa Rica and Panama, including higher elevation forests than the mangroves; Limon Worm Salamander (Oedipina alfaroi, VU), a restricted range caecilian found only on the Atlantic versant of Costa Rica and extreme northwest Panama. Caecilians found in the ecoregion are represented by: La Loma Caecilian (Dermophis parviceps), an organism found in the Atlantic versant of Panama and Costa Rica up to elevation 1200 metres

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Bothriechis schlegelii can be found in wooded areas throughout its habitat, including closed-canopy primary and secondary forest (Guyer and Donnelly 2005), coastal cloud forest (Kuch 2001), and lowland and premontane moist and wet forest (Savage 2002). This species occurs at elevations up to 1300 m asl, and can be found perching between 0.5 m to 35 m above the ground (Leenders 2001).

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Eyelash pit vipers occupy a wide range of wooded or shrubby habitats, particularly in moist tropical forests. They occur in near sea-level and streamside vegetation in moist lowlands and mountain foothills to high-elevation montane and cloud forests. They have been found at elevations ranging from 860 to 2500 m. Habitats in close proximity to water appear to provide them with a large number and diversity of prey, particularly small birds, amphibians, and reptiles.

Eyelash pit vipers spend very little time on the forest floor, where predation rates are generally higher than in areas lacking thick vegetation for camouflage. Instead, they are found most often in dense shrub thickets, low hanging tree branches, vines, or in the coarse bark of various palm species. They also are frequently reported in plantations, on the branches of coffee trees.

Range elevation: 860 to 2500 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest

Other Habitat Features: agricultural

  • Savage, J. 2002. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica: a Herpetofauna between Two Continents, between Two Seas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Sorrell, G. 2009. Diel movement and predation activity patterns of the eyelash palm-pitviper (Bothriechis schlegelii). Copeia, 2009/1: 105-109.
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Migration

Bothriechis schlegelii does not migrate; however, it may cover substantial distances moving between hunting perches at night (Sorrell 2009).

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Dispersal

Bothriechis schlegelii is fairly localized and remains contained within its range. However, reports suggest that individuals of this species have been inadvertently transported around the world via banana exports from South and Central America.

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Eyelash pit vipers feed on a wide variety of small vertebrate animals, including (but not limited to) frogs, lizards, birds, bats, rodents, and marsupials. In most cases, these snakes will prey upon any animal small enough to be subdued and ingested without confrontation. While they are not considered an aggressive species, eyelash pit vipers have been known to bite humans who venture too close.

Eyelash pit vipers are primarily nocturnal predators, although they also capture moving prey from the safety of their diurnal perch. They typically use a "sit-and-wait" form of predation to surprise and ambush their prey. After capture, they paralyze their prey by injecting hemotoxic venom (toxins capable of destroying red blood cells). This venom contains procoagulants and haemorrhagins, and affects both the central nervous system and the cardiovascular system, making it highly toxic.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)

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Associations

The eyelash viper Bothriechis schlegelii is a generalist mid-level consumer that preys on frogs, lizards, birds, and small mammals such as bats, rodents, and mouse opossums. This species may prey on animals much larger than itself, and has been documented to eat prey items up to at least 147% of its body mass (Lindey and Sorrell 2004). It has also been documented to strike at hummingbirds in mid-air, and the yellow color morph of B. schlegelii has been hypothesized to attract pollinating hummingbirds (Guyer and Donnelly 2005).

Raptors such as the great black hawk Buteogallus urubitinga are thought to be the main predators of B. schlegelii (Savage 2002). Laurencio (2005) observed an adult laughing falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnas) attacking an eyelash viper, although in this instance the bird killed the snake but did not eat it. There is anecdotal evidence of predation on B. schlegelii by organisms such as jungle cats, hedgehogs, foxes, and humans.

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Ecosystem Roles

Eyelash pit vipers are important predators of small vertebrate animals in their moist, wooded tropical environments.

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Predation

Eyelash pit vipers are slow-moving ambush predators. Because of their predatory habits, they are vulnerable to predation themselves. In response to this, eyelash vipers have developed unique adaptations to avoid being attacked or eaten. The "eyelashes" actually break up the shape of the head and allow it to be easily camouflaged. The patterns found on eyelash pit vipers vary greatly and allow them to blend in with their surrounding environment. Along with camouflage, they also rely on a hemotoxic and neurotoxic venom, which affects the blood stream and central nervous system to deter potential predators. Common predators include hedgehogs, badgers, foxes, humans, and cats.

Known Predators:

  • Hedgehogs
  • Badgers
  • Fox
  • Humans
  • Cats

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

During the day, B. schlegelii is most commonly found curled up in ambush position, in a sit-and-wait method of predation that is widespread in vipers. However, the species of frogs found in B. schlegelii stomach contents, as well as observations of nocturnal movement, suggest that this species may actively hunt for prey as well, especially at night (Sorrell 2009).

This species is arboreal, and appears to spend most of its time in vegetation 1-1.5 m above the ground (Savage 2002). While it appears to rely on camouflage and a sedentary daytime lifestyle to avoid detection by prey and predators alike, if threatened, it may adopt a defense posture, raising the first third of its body and opening its mouth, displaying its fangs (Leenders 2001).

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Communication and Perception

Like all pit vipers, B. schlegelii has a pair of heat-sensitive pits set between its eyes and nostrils. They have well-developed binocular vision and pupils with long vertical slits that increase their visual perception. Eyelash pit vipers, like most other viper species, rely on "heat imaging" to sense their environment, particularly sensing danger and prey. Like most other snakes, they also have a long tongue which they "flick" in order to sense chemical changes in the air around them. Because of their illusive nature, not much is known about the communication between members of the same species or potential mates. Males utilize visual intimidation in their competitive "dances" to secure mates during the breeding season. Like all snakes, eyelash pit vipers have primitive ear structures that sense nearby vibrations rather than sound.

Communication Channels: visual ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; infrared/heat ; vibrations ; chemical

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Life Cycle

Development

Aside from their small size, eyelash pit vipers are born fully developed and do not undergo any type of metamorphosis. Young snakes are capable of injecting venom, although they typically do not feed until after their first molt. Small frogs are common as early prey. Perhaps because of their diet, young pit vipers generally to spend greater amounts of time on the ground than adults. However, this trend seems less pronounced in eyelash pit vipers than other species. Like most snakes, eyelash pit vipers exhibit indeterminate growth and will increase in size throughout their lives.

Development - Life Cycle: indeterminate growth

  • Hunziker, R. 2001. The Guide to Owning Eyelash and Temple Vipers. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications.
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Life Expectancy

Although the lifespan of Bothriechis schlegelii has not been studied in depth, a lifespan of 16-20 years has been inferred from specimens in zoos and private collections, and a lifespan of 16 years has been documented in one captive individual (Savage 2002). The average lifespan of wild individuals is probably shorter due to environmental factors such as predation, disease, and food availability.

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Lifespan/Longevity

Because eyelash pit vipers are arboreal and relatively reclusive, they have been difficult to study in their natural habitat. Instead, most lifespan records are for animals in captivity. Estimated lifespan for wild eyelash pit vipers is approximately 10 years.

Many zoos keep eyelash pit vipers because of their aesthetic qualities. Zoos have reported ages of eyelash pit vipers in captivity ranging from 16 to over 20 years. This is due to the lack of predation and consistent food supply.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
20 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
6 to 10 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
10 years.

Typical lifespan

Status: captivity:
16 to 20 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
16 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 19.5 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Courtship in Bothriechis schlegelii consists of the male approaching the female while swaying his head. He then aligns his body next to hers until their cloacae, or vents, are touching. Sperm is then passed into the female’s cloaca by one of the male’s hemipenes. Being viviparous, this species gives birth to live young, with gestation taking about 6 months in captivity and yielding clutches of 6-19 neonates (Antonio 1980, Savage 2002). Gestation and clutch size in the wild are thought to be similar.

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Eyelash pit vipers reach sexual maturity at approximately two years of age. These snakes have a keen sense of smell and chemical sensing pits that are used to locate potential mates. Courtship behavior is an important part of mating. Males participate in a “dance of the adders” which is a courtship ritual in which two males face one another in an upright, cobra-like stance. Through posturing, males attempt to intimidate one another, often until one is pushed away or falls to the ground. This courtship ritual typically does not harm either participant, as biting does not occur. This ritual may continue for many hours. Like most snakes, eyelash pit vipers are polygynous.

Mating System: polygynous

Eyelash pit vipers reproduce throughout the year in warm environments. Mating typically occurs at night. Pregnant females show an enlarged lower abdomen, with continued anterior expansion over time. Females often stop feeding in the final stages of pregnancy.

Females incubate eggs internally for an approximately six month gestation period. Eyelash pit vipers are ovoviviparous, meaning that after gestation, the eggs hatch inside the mother's body, where they complete their development. These vipers typically bear 2 to 20 live young per brood. Except for body size (15 to 20 cm), the young are physically similar to adults.

Breeding interval: Eyelash vipers appear to have no specific breeding season and usually breed once to twice per year.

Breeding season: Gestation lasts approximately six months. After giving birth, females are immediately ready to reproduce again.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 25.

Average number of offspring: 6 to 20.

Range gestation period: 3 to 5 (low) months.

Average gestation period: 6 months.

Range birth mass: 2 to 3.5 g.

Average time to independence: 0 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; ovoviviparous

Male eyelash pit vipers are present only during fertilization. Females eyelash pit vipers have a significantly greater investment, as the eggs hatch and the young develop inside of her for 3 to 5 months. As she gains body mass while pregnant, she may be at greater risk of predation. Females invest very little time in the young once they are born as they are fully equipped for immediate independence.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Sacramento Zoo. 2010. "Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis Schlegelli)" (On-line). Sacramento Zoo. Accessed October 12, 2010 at http://www.saczoo.com/Document.Doc?id=367.
  • Antonio, F. 1980. Mating behavior and reproduction of the eyelash viper (Bothrops schlegeli) in captivity. Herpetologica, 36/3: 231-233.
  • Hunziker, R. 2001. The Guide to Owning Eyelash and Temple Vipers. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications.
  • O'Shea, M. 2005. Venomous Snakes of the World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Santos-Barrera, G., J. Pacheco, F. Mendoza-Quijano, F. Bolaños, G. Cháves, G. Daily, P. Ehrlich, G. Ceballos. 2008. Diversity, natural history and conservation of amphibians and reptiles from the San Vito Region, southwestern Costa Rica. Rev. Biol. Trop., 56/2: 755-778.
  • Vitt, L., J. Caldwell. 2008. Herpetology. Missouri: Academic Press.
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Growth

Neonates of this species feed on frogs and lizards, which they may lure with their tail. This behavior, termed caudal luring, is not unique to Bothriechis schlegelii but has been observed in several other arboreal pit vipers as well (Greene 1972, Antonio 1980). Like adults of this species, juvenile B. schlegelii display a wide range of color patterns, including primarily green, pink, and yellow patterns (Antonio 1980).

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Evolution and Systematics

Evolution

Bothriechis schlegelii was originally described by the German zoologist Arnold Berthold in 1846. This species is a crotalid, or pit viper in the family Viperidae. Its genus, Bothriechis, contains seven recognized species, and while B. schlegelii is thought to be the most basal member of its genus (Lomonte et al. 2008), the fine-scale phylogeny of this clade remains uncertain due to disagreement between nuclear and mitochondrial gene trees (Taggart 2001).

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Physiology and Cell Biology

Physiology

As a pit viper, Bothriechis schlegelii is solenoglyphous, possessing mobile, hollow fangs that articulate with the maxilla. These fangs are protected by a fleshy sheath and fold against the roof of the mouth when not in use. Although this species is venomous and its bites are not uncommon, B. schlegelii rarely causes human fatalities (of the 90-100 bites reported per year in Costa Rica, only 3-6 of these, on average, prove fatal). The venom of most pit vipers has powerful coagulant, hemorrhagic, and myotoxic (muscle-destroying) effects as a result of a potent combination of proteins, causing massive tissue destruction and swelling, as well as internal bleeding. Although B. schlegelii is a pit viper, its venom causes no hemorrhaging and very limited myotoxicity. This relatively low level of toxicity, combined with physical beauty, has made B. schlegelii popular among zoos, although this species is too dangerous to be suitable for the pet trade (Leenders 2001, Savage 2002, Lomonte et al. 2008). Like all pit vipers, this species has characteristic heat-sensitive pits on its upper lip, which it can use to sense the infrared radiation given off by potential prey with extreme precision (Pough et al. 2004).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Bothriechis schlegelii

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 9
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

As of July 10, 2011, the conservation status of Bothriechis schlegelii has not been evaluated by the IUCN (IUCN 2011). However, although local population densities may vary, populations of this species are generally thought to be robust.

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Eyelash pit vipers were removed from CITIES Appendix III in December of 2002. They are no longer listed as threatened on any endangered species list. Like many arboreal, tropical species, eyelash pit vipers are likely threatened by habitat loss as a result of increased deforestation for the timber industry, agriculture, or urbanization.

CITES: no special status

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Threats

Although this species is not currently thought to be threatened, populations of Bothriechis schlegelii are subject to exploitation by wildlife collectors, and may also face declines as a result of habitat destruction by humans.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

The beautiful coloration and relatively docile demeanor of this species have made it popular among professional reptile collectors (i.e. zoos and museums), although this species is still too dangerous for use in the pet trade. Selective breeding has also produced many additional color morphs seldom found in the wild. More practically, Bothriechis schlegelii is also used in a variety of venom research.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Eyelash pit vipers are relatively docile unless threatened. It is not uncommon for people encounter this ambush predator unexpectedly in their natural habitat. Although no fatalities from eyelash pit viper bites have been reported, they are venomous and potentially harmful. Because of their relatively small size and ability to become camouflaged among bright yellow fruit, yellow eyelash pit vipers have been accidentally shipped throughout the world in boxes of bananas.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings, venomous )

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Because of their colorful appearance, eyelash pit vipers are one of the most common arboreal vipers collected and kept in captivity.

Positive Impacts: pet trade

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Wikipedia

Bothriechis supraciliaris

Bothriechis supraciliaris, or the blotched palm-pit viper, is a species of snake in the Viperidae family that is endemic to Costa Rica.[1][2][3][4] It is 50–60 cm (20–24 in) in length but can reach till 80 centimetres (31 in).[5] Their body colour varies, it can be either bluish-green, reddish-brown, or reddish-maroon, but usually it is bright or moss-green. The body is also circular, ovoid and rhomboid with irregular dorsal blotches, that sometimes can go in crossbands. The belly is light and have 21-23 dorsal scales rows on it midbody. The head of the species carries dark stripes and prominent scales that are located above the eyes.[5] The only sexual dimorphism noted is that females of the species tend to be longer and thicker than males.[6]

Its range is limited to mountains near San Isidro del General, San Jose Province, Costa Rica.[3]

B. supraciliaris was formerly considered a subspecies of B. schlegelii, the eyelash palm-pitviper.[1][7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b O'Shea, Mark (March 2008). Venomous Snakes of the World. New Holland Publishers. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-84773-086-2. 
  2. ^ "Taxonomic Information for Bothriechis supraciliaris". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Facts about Bothriechis supraciliaris". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  4. ^ Lomonte, Bruno; Tsai, Wan-Chih; Bonilla, Fabián; Solórzano, Alejandro; Solano, Gabriela; Angulo, Yamileth; Gutiérrez, José María; Calvete, Juan J. (2012). "Snake venomics and toxicological profiling of the arboreal pitviper Bothriechis supraciliaris from Costa Rica". Toxicon 59 (5): 592–599. doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2012.01.005. ISSN 0041-0101. 
  5. ^ a b "Bothriechis supraciliaris". AFPMB Living Hazards Database. Armed Forces Pest Management Board. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  6. ^ Solórzano, Alejandro; Gómez, Luis D.; Monge-Nájera, Julián; Crother, Brian I. (1998). "Redescription and validation of Bothriechis supraciliaris". Revista de Biología Tropical 46 (2): 1001–1013. ISSN 0034-7744. 
  7. ^ Lillywhite, Harvey B. (April 2014). How Snakes Work: Structure, Function and Behavior of the World's Snakes. Oxford University Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-19-538037-8. 
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Bothriechis schlegelii

The eyelash viper (Bothriechis schlegelii) is a venomous pit viper species found in Central and South America. Small and arboreal, these snakes are characterized by their wide array of color variations, as well as the superciliary scales over the eyes. They are the most common of the green palm-pitvipers (genus Bothriechis),[2] and are often present in zoological exhibits. The specific name schlegelii honors the German ornithologist, Hermann Schlegel. For other common names see below. No subspecies are currently recognized.[3]

Description[edit]

The eyelash viper is a relatively small species of pitviper, with adults ranging from 55–82 cm (22–32 in) long, and females being longer and more variable in size than males, which can grow to 69 cm (27 in) long.[4] They have a wide, triangular-shaped head, and eyes with vertical pupils. Like all pit vipers, they are solenoglyphous, having large, hypodermic needle-like fangs in the upper jaw that fold back when not in use, and have heat sensitive organs, or pits, located on either side of the head between the eye and nostril.

Its most distinguishing feature, and origin of its common name, is the set of modified scales over the eyes that look much like eyelashes. The eyelashes are thought to aid in camouflage, breaking up the snake's outline among the foliage where it hides. B. schlegelii occurs in a wide range of colors, including red, yellow, brown, green, even pink, as well as various combinations thereof. They often have black or brown speckling on the base color. No external features distinguish the two sexes.[5]

Common names[edit]

Common names of B. schlegelii include the eyelash viper,[6] eyelash pit viper, eyelash palm viper, eyelash palm-pitviper,[7][5] Schlegel's viper,[6] Schlegel's pit viper,[8] Schlegel's palm viper,[9] eyelash snake,[2] eyelash lancehead,[10] eyelash mountain viper,[6] and horned palm viper.[2] In Spanish, the primary language of countries comprising its distribution, common names include bocaracá,[11] oropel (golden morph),[11] víbora bocaracá, toboba pestanas,[5] víbora de pestañas[7] (eyelash viper), and serpiente loro[7] (parrot snake).

Geographic range[edit]

Its range extends from southern Mexico (northern Chiapas), southeastward on the Atlantic plains and lowlands through Central America to northern South America in Colombia and Venezuela. Also found on the Pacific versant and lowlands in parts of Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Occurs in mesic forest at elevations almost from sea level to 2640 m altitude. The type locality is “Popayan” (Popayán, Colombia).[1]

Habitat[edit]

B. schlegelii prefers lower altitude, humid, tropical areas with dense foliage, generally not far from a permanent water source.

Behavior[edit]

Like other Bothriechis members, this species is arboreal, having a strongly prehensile tail. It is largely nocturnal, consuming small rodents, frogs, lizards and small birds.[4] They are not known to be an aggressive snake, but will not hesitate to strike if harassed.

A typical ambush predator, it waits patiently for unsuspecting prey to wander by. Sometimes, it is known to select a specific ambush site and return to it every year in time for the spring migration of birds. Studies have indicated that these snakes learn to improve their strike accuracy over time.[1] Sometimes these snakes (especially juveniles) will employ what is known as “caudal luring”, where they will wiggle their tail in worm-like motions to encourage potential prey to move within striking range. There is a myth among villagers in some small areas of South America that the snake will wink, flashing its eyelashes at its victim, following a venomous strike. (Snakes are not physiologically capable of such behavior.)

Reproduction[edit]

Eyelash vipers reach sexual maturity at around two years of age, and the ovoviviparous species reproduces throughout the year in warm environments.[4] Females carry eggs for around six months before they hatch internally, where the young complete their development.[4] Pregnant females have enlarged lower abdomens, and may stop eating in later stages of pregnancy.[4] In a typical brood they give birth to 2–20 live young, which are 15–20 cm (5.9–7.9 in) in length and appear physically similar to adults.[4]

Males engage in a sometimes hours-long courtship ritual called a “dance of the adders,” in which two males posture and intimidate one another in an upright, “cobra-like” stance until one is pushed away or falls to the ground.[4] They are polygynous, and usually mate at night.[4]

Captivity[edit]

Despite the inherent danger of its venom, B. schlegelii is frequently available in the exotic animal trade, and is well represented in zoos worldwide. It is frequently captive bred for color and pattern. Exporting from the wild is not as common as it once was, but is not unknown. In general they make hardy captives, readily feeding on provided mice.

Taxonomy[edit]

Some authorities also recognize a montane form that is treated either as a subspecies (B. s. supraciliaris) or as a species (B. supraciliaris).[6] Found in the province of San José in Costa Rica,[12] it was sometimes referred to as the eyelash mountain viper,[6] while more recent publications recognizing the species designation refer to it as the blotched palm-pitviper.[13][14]

Conservation[edit]

Eyelash vipers have not been evaluated by the IUCN Red List, and were removed from CITES Appendix III in 2002.[4] While not listed as threatened, they are likely at risk of habitat loss from increased deforestation for timber, agriculture, and urbanization.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, vol. 1. Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
  2. ^ a b c Lewis, Robert Alan (23 March 1998). Lewis' Dictionary of Toxicology. CRC Press. p. 187. ISBN 978-1-56670-223-2. 
  3. ^ "Bothriechis schlegelii". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 4 June 2007. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Sinnett, Katy. "ADW: Bothrichis schlegelii information". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Guyer, Craig; Donnelly, Maureen A. (2005). Amphibians and Reptiles of La Selva, Costa Rica, and the Caribbean Slope: A Comprehensive Guide. University of California Press. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-520-93701-7. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Mehrtens, John M. (1987). Living snakes of the world in color. Sterling Pub. Co. ISBN 978-0-8069-6460-7. 
  7. ^ a b c "Common Names for Eyelash Palm Pit Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii)". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Parker HW, Grandison AGC. 1977. Snakes -- a natural history. Second Edition. British Museum (Natural History) and Cornell University Press. 108 pp. 16 plates. LCCCN 76-54625. ISBN 0-8014-1095-9 (cloth), ISBN 0-8014-9164-9 (paper),
  9. ^ Brown JH. 1973. Toxicology and Pharmacology of Venoms from Poisonous Snakes. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas. 184 pp. LCCCN 73-229. ISBN 0-398-02808-7.
  10. ^ Wrobel, Murray (4 December 2004). Elsevier's Dictionary of Reptiles. Elsevier. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-08-045920-2. 
  11. ^ a b Henderson, Carrol L. (30 November 2010). Mammals, Amphibians, and Reptiles of Costa Rica: A Field Guide. University of Texas Press. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-292-78464-2. 
  12. ^ "Facts about Bothriechis supraciliaris". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  13. ^ O'Shea, Mark (March 2008). Venomous Snakes of the World. New Holland Publishers. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-84773-086-2. 
  14. ^ Lillywhite, Harvey B. (April 2014). How Snakes Work: Structure, Function and Behavior of the World's Snakes. Oxford University Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-19-538037-8. 
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