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. Often present in zoological exhibits. Named after the German ornithologist, Hermann Schlegel. For other common names see below. No subspecies are currently recognized.
This is a relatively small species that rarely exceeds 75 centimetres (30 in) in length, with females being larger than males. 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.
Eyelash viper, eyelash mountain viper, Schlegel's viper, Schlegel's palm viper, eyelash snake, horned palm viper. eyelash pit viper, Schlegel's pit viper. eyelash palm-pitviper. Also known as Bocaracá in Costa Rica and other Latin American countries.
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).
B. schlegelii prefers lower altitude, humid, tropical areas with dense foliage, generally not far from a permanent water source.
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. 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. 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.)
Eyelash vipers are ovoviviparous, giving birth to an average of 10–12 young on a yearly basis, that are 6–8 inches in length.
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. As they make impressive display specimens, particularly desirable colorations can command high prices.
Some authorities also recognize a montane form that is treated either as a subspecies (B. s. supraciliaris) or as a species (B. supraciliaris). It has been commonly referred to as the eyelash mountain viper and is only found in the province of San José in Costa Rica.
- List of crotaline species and subspecies
- Crotalinae by common name
- Crotalinae by taxonomic synonyms
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bothriechis schlegelii.|
- Bothriechis schlegelii at the Reptarium.cz Reptile Database. Accessed 12 December 2007.
- Eyelash viper at WhoZoo. Accessed 27 November 2008.
- Eyelash pit viper. Accessed 27 November 2008.