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A. nummifer
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Serpentes
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Subfamily: Crotalinae
Genus: Atropoides
Werman, 1992

Atropoides is a genus of venomous pitvipers endemic to Mexico and Central America. Three species are currently recognized.[2] The common names suggest they are able to leap at an attacker, but this is likely exaggerated. Common names include: jumping pitvipers,[3] jumping vipers.[4]


All of these snakes are extremely thick-bodied, with A. nummifer being the most stout and A. picadoi being the most slender. However, the greatest recorded total length is for A. picadoi, with one specimen that measured 120.2 cm (47 in). The head is large, with small eyes and a broadly rounded snout. The tail is short, not prehensile, and accounts for only 15% of the total length.[3]

The color pattern usually consists of a gray-brown or reddish brown ground color (sometimes yellow, cream, purplish brown or black), overlaid with a series of lateral and dorsal blotches. The shape of these blotches is subject to some variation, but is sometimes still helpful for identification.[3]

Geographic range[edit]

Found in the mountains of eastern Mexico southeastward on the Atlantic versant and lowlands though Central America to central Panama. On the Pacific versant, they occur in isolated populations in east-central and southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama.[1]


The common name alludes to the supposed ability these snakes have to launch themselves at an attacker during a strike, thereby bridging a distance that is equal to or greater than the length of the body.[3] Mehrtens (1987) states that they live up to their name, striking at their assailants with such force that they actually leave the ground.[4] Campbell and Lamar (2004), on the other hand, describe this as greatly exaggerated, saying that actually these snakes are only able to strike about half of their own body length. In addition, they describe them as slow moving and non-aggressive. However, when provoked all species will put on a rather dramatic open-mouthed threat display.[3]

These snakes may be active both during the day and at night. On the other hand, populations found at higher altitudes seem to be active only during daylight hours and never at night.[3]


Adults feed mainly on small mammals and lizards, while juveniles feed on orthopterans and skinks.[3]


Unlike most vipers, members of this genus will strike and then hold on and chew. In one case, a machete was used to pry off the jaws. March (1929) wrote that A. mexicanus (A. nummifer) will hang on and make half a dozen punctures unless quickly and forcibly removed. However, the effects of the venom include only transient pain and mild swelling. In one part of Honduras the locals even insist that the snake (A. nummifer) is not venomous. Laboratory studies suggest that Atropoides venoms are unlikely to lead to consumption coagulopathy and incoagulable blood in humans. However, other research revealed that of ten different Costa Rican pit viper venoms tested on mice, that of A. picadoi was the most hemorrhagic.[3]


Species[2] Taxon author[2] Subsp.*[2] Common name[3] Geographic range[1]
A. nummifer Rüppell, 1845 2 Mexican jumping pitviper Eastern Mexico from San Luis Potosí southeastward on the Atlantic versant and lowlands through northern Guatemala, southern Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica to central Panama. On the Pacific versant in disjunct populations from southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama. Found in various types of forest, including cloud forest and rain forest at 40–1,600 m (130-5,250 ft) altitude.
A. olmec Pérez-Higareda, H.M. Smith & Juliá-Zertuche, 1985 0 Tuxtlan jumping pitviper Mexico on the upper slopes of the Sierra de Los Tuxtlas in southern Veracruz.
A. picadoiT Dunn, 1939 0 Picado's jumping pitviper In the mountains of Costa Rica and western Panama at 50–1,500 m (160-4,900 ft) altitude. This includes the Cordillera de Tilarán, the Cordillera Central and the Cordillera de Talamanca.

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d 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 "Atropoides". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 November 2006. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i 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. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "C.26L04" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  4. ^ a b Mehrtens JM. 1987. Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.

Further reading[edit]

  • March DDH. 1929. Notes on Bothrops nummifera, mano de piedra or timbo. Bulletin of the Antivenin Institute of America. 2(3): 58.
  • Müller JW von. 1865. Vol. 3. Reisen in den Vereinigten Staten, Canada und Mexico. Beitrage zur geschichte, statistik und zoologie von Mexico. F.A. Brockhaus, Leipzig. xiv, pp. 595–619[613].
  • Rüppell E. 1845. Verzeichnis der in dem Museum der Senckenbergischen naturforschenden Gesellschaft aufgestellten Sammlungen. Dritte Abteilung: Amphibien. Museum Senckenbergianum 3: 293-318[313].
  • Werman SD. 1992. Phylogenetic relationships of Central and South American pitvipers of the genus Bothrops (sensu lato): cladistic analyses of biochemical and anatomical characters. pp. 21–40[21, 34]. In Campbell JA, Brodie Jr. ED. 1992. Biology of the Pitvipers. Texas: Selva. 467 pp. 17 plates. ISBN 0-9630537-0-1.

External links[edit]