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Overview

Brief Summary

The white-tailed hognose viper snake (Porthidium porrasi) is one of nine species in the exclusively New World genus Porthidium (Viperidae).  It was first described as a morphologically and molecularly distinct species in 2003; previously it had been considered a variant of the abundant and wide-spread P. nasutum.  Molecular analysis suggests these two species diverged about 1.7 million years ago, coinciding with volcanic action that may have caused the mountain uplift that isolates the lowland wet forests on the southwestern pacific coast of Costa Rica, where P. porrasi is found (Lamar and Sasa 2003, however see Bryson et al 2008).  Neither P. nasutum nor P. volcanicum (the other Costa Rican Porthidium species) are sympatric in distribution with P. porrasi

Distinguished by a creamy white-tipped tail, this small hognose viper has a stocky body and grows to about 40 cm (1.3 feet).  A terrestrial ambush predator, its gently banded bright orange and tan patterning makes it cryptic it as it lies coiled in leaf litter; it feeds on rodents and anoline lizards (genus Anolis).  Like all viperids (family Viperidae) white-tailed hognose vipers have a pair of long, hollow fangs at the front of their mouth used for injecting toxins into their prey, and they give birth to live young.  The few available birth records indicate that this species has litters of six to nine young (Lamar and Sasa 2003).

  • Bryson Jr, RW, Nieto-Montes de Oca, A, and Reyes Velasco, J. 2008. Phylogenetic Position of Porthidium Hespere (Viperidae: Crotalinae) and Phylogeography of Arid-Adapted Hognosed Pitvipers Based on Mitochondrial DNA. Copeia 2008(1):172-178 doi: 10.1643/CH-07-043
  • Lamar, W.W. and M. Sasa, 2003. A new species of hognose pit viper, genus Porthidium, from the southwestern Pacific of Costa Rica (Serpentes: Viperidae). Rev. biol. trop vol.51 no.3-4 San José sep. 2003. Available online at http://www.scielo.sa.cr/scielo.php?pid=s0034-77442003000300022&script=sci_arttext#Campbell89
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© Dana Campbell

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Distribution

Range Description

This species is endemic to the Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce region of Costa Rica. Elevational range extends from sea level to 200 meters (Sasa et al. 2010).
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Continent: Middle-America
Distribution: SW Costa Rica
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© Peter Uetz

Source: The Reptile Database

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species inhabits lowland wet forests (Sasa et al. 2010). It is mostly found in old growth forest, although it occasionally may occur in adjacent second growth. This species is terrestrial, occurring in the leaf litter. It feeds on lizards, frogs, and small mammals.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2014

Assessor/s
Porras, L.W. & Solórzano, A.

Reviewer/s
Bowles, P.

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern because although the extent of occurrence is small (EOO < 5,000 km2) and the species may occur at low densities, much of the distribution occurs within protected areas, and there is no evidence for significant population declines.
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Population

Population
This species is fairly rarely detected (known from 20-30 specimens as of 2012), but may be more common than the number of records indicates.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
This species is threatened by persecution by farmers because it is venomous. It is also threatened by deforestation and habitat loss for cattle ranching and timber plantations.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species occurs in Corcovado National Park and the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve. Because these two reserves protect much of the range of this species, further conservation measures (other than monitoring extraction for the pet trade) currently are not needed.
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