Brief Summary

The hognosed pit viper snakes (Porthidium) make up one of the more basal of the 11 New World pit vipers genera (subfamily Crotalinae), and are part of an assemblage described as the “Porthidium group” found primarily in Middle America, between Mexico and Ecuador.  The genus contains nine small terrestrial species, ranging in size from 55-75 cm (22-30 inches) long, with mottled brown cryptic coloration (Lemonte et al. 2012 and references cited within).  In about half the species, the snout is slightly to strongly up turned, giving the genus its common name hognosed (Lamar and Sasa 2003). Like all viperids (family Viperidae) they are ambush predators with a pair of long, hollow fangs at the front of their mouth used for injecting toxin into their prey.  The small number of identified bites of humans by hognosed pit vipers report as these as usually causing only local pain and bruising (although some systemic cases have been reported), and less severe than bites from larger central American pit vipers such as the fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper), which have a similar venom profile but deliver a much smaller dose (Lomonte et al. 2012). 

Originally all species in the Porthidium group were contained in genus Porthidium, however much phylogenetic and taxonomic work has since separated this group into three genera (Porthidium, Cerrophidion, and Atrapoides).  Analysis of toxicological properties of the venom further distinguishes Porthidium species from Cerrophidion (Lomonte et al. 2012).  The nine currently accepted Porthidium species are: P. arcosae, P. dunni, P. hespere, P. hyoprora, P. lansbergii, P. nasutum, P. ophryomegas, P. porrasi, P. yucatanicum, P. volcanicum.  Taxa are still in flux; the rare P. volcanicum was recently discovered in Costa Rica and others have been newly recognized as species in their own right (P. arcosae, P. porrasi) rather than subspecies (Lamar and Sasa 2003; Valencia et al. 2010).  Porthidium arcosae is sometimes considered a subspecies of P. lansbergii, and the future promises further taxonomic redefinitions of this genus since many researchers recognize that P. nasutum and P. lansbergii may not be distinctly individual species but rather species complexes in need of further taxonomic attention (Campbell and Lamar 2004; Castoe et al. 2005).  Recent molecular phylogenetic analyses find two discrete lineages within the genus: an “arid-adapted” lineage including P. ophryomegas, P. dunni, and P. hespere separate from the other species which form a lineage of moist and lowland forest-dwellers (Bryson et al. 2008; Jadin et al. 2011; Valencia et al. 2010; Castoe et al. 2005). Molecular analyses show a pattern of species dispersal back and forth between South and Central America.  Molecular clock estimates of divergences suggest Porthidium initially colonized South America after the emergence of the Panamanian isthmus, unlike the pitviper genus Bothrops, which occupied South America before the isthmus arose, and may have prevented further colonization and radiation by later arriving Porthidium (Castoe et al. 2005 and references cited therein; Wüster et al. 2002). 

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Common names: hognosed pitvipers.[2]

Porthidium is a genus of venomous pitvipers found in Mexico and southward to northern South America.[1] The name is derived from the Greek word portheo and the suffix -idus, which mean "destroy" and "having the nature of", apparently a reference to the venom.[2] Seven species are currently recognized.[3] The snakes of the genus Hypnale in southern India and Sri Lanka look quite similar to those of this genus, possibly an example of convergent evolution.



This is a group of small species, adults ranging in size from 55 centimetres (22 in) (P. dunni and P. yucatanicum) to 75 centimetres (30 in) in total length (P. lansbergii and P. ophryomegas). In addition, the body shape ranges from relatively slender (P. ophryomegas) to relatively stout (P. nasutum). All have a sharply defined canthus rostralis and a rostral scale that is higher than it is broad. The tip of the snout may be slightly to moderately elevated (P. hespere, P. lansbergii, P. ophryomegas and P. volcanicum), strongly elevated (P. dunni and P. yucatanicum), or not elevated at all.[2] All species have a color pattern that usually consists of a brown or gray ground color, overlaid with a series of dark paraventral blotches that are separated by a pale and narrow vertebral stripe. The blotches are square, rectangular, or triangular in shape. In some species, the color pattern is determined by the sex.[2]

Geographic range

Found in Mexico (Colima, Oaxaca and Chiapas on the Pacific side, the Yucatán Peninsula on the Atlantic side) southward through Central America to northern South America (Ecuador in the Pacific lowlands, northern Venezuela in the Atlantic lowlands).[1]


Species[3]Taxon author[3]Subsp.*[3]Common name[2]Geographic range[1]
P. dunni(Hartweg & Oliver, 1938)0Dunn's hognosed pitviperSouthern Mexico in the Pacific lowlands of Oaxaca and western Chiapas.
P. hespere(Campbell, 1976)0Colima hognosed pitviperWestern Mexico (Colima).
P. lansbergii(Schlegel, 1841)3Lansberg's hognosed pitviperExtreme eastern Central America in the xeric coastal lowlands of central and eastern Panama. In northern South America in the Atlantic lowlands of Colombia and northern Venezuela, as well as the Pacific lowlands of Ecuador.
P. nasutumT(Bocourt, 1868)0Rainforest hognosed pitviperSouthern Mexico southward through Central America to western Colombia and northwestern Ecuador in South America. Inhabits the Atlantic lowlands from Mexico (Tabasco and Chiapas) through Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica to eastern Panama and northwestern Colombia. In the Pacific lowlands, it occurs in southwestern Costa Rica, central and eastern Panama, continuing on to northwestern Ecuador. It is found in mesic lowland broadleaf or rainforest from sea level to elevation of about 900 m.
P. ophryomegas(Bocourt, 1868)0Slender hognosed pitviperCentral America in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
P. volcanicumSolórzano, 19940Ujarran hognosed pitviperVolcán de Buenos Aires and Valle del General in Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica.
P. yucatanicum(H.M. Smith, 1941)0Yucatán hognosed pitviperNorthern half of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.

*) Not including the nominate subspecies.
T) Type species.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e 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 d e Campbell JA, Lamar WW. 2004. The Venomous Reptiles of the Western Hemisphere. Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca and London. 870 pp. 1500 plates. ISBN 0-8014-4141-2.
  3. ^ a b c d "Porthidium". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=585667. Retrieved 4 November 2006.
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