Eyelash Palm Pit Viper
Genus/species: Bothriechis schlegelii
The eyelash palm pit viper is named for the bristly scales above its eyes. It looks like it has a "hood" or eyelashes over its eyes. It can be easily recognized by its color and triangular head. Individuals are found in different colors such as yellow, green, and pinkish. This great variety usually depends on the geographic origin of snake. It is one of the smallest poisonous snakes in Central America, measuring only up to 2.5 feet (76 cm) and averaging about 22 to 32 inches (56 to 81 cm).
Generally, eyelash vipers don't bite humans unless teased or trampled. They tend to have very long fangs and a bite can be very painful and even deadly. This viper usually attacks its prey quickly, injects hemotoxic venom, and then waits for the prey to die. It then swallows it.
The eyelash viper is mostly nocturnal and is usually found in trees, on the leaves of big plants, or in other vegetation just above the ground. Their scales are keeled so they are rough and sharp to the touch, unlike most snakes whose scales are smooth. Their rough scales may help to protect them against the branches and vines of their arboreal habitat. They have a pair of heat-sensitive pits between the eyes and nostrils. The pupils are long vertical slits.
Distribution and Habitat
Eyelash vipers range from southern Mexico through Central America to Columbia, Ecuador, and western Venezuela.
Their habitat ranges from densely wooded, sea-level forests to streamside vegetation in moist lowlands and foothills, to wooded cloud and montane forests. They primarily inhabit shrubbery, vine tangles, low branches of trees, and palms.
Diet in the Wild
Adult eyelash vipers prey on small mammals, birds (including hovering hummingbirds) and nestlings, lizards, and frogs. Juveniles prey primarily on small frogs.
The eyelash viper is fed mice and small rats.
Vipers use their sense of smell to find mates. The males go through an amazing ritual called "the dance of the adders" when they are competing for the same female. They face each other with the head and the forepart of the body held erect, while trying to push the other to the ground. This can go on for hours. There is no biting from either contestant.
Eyelash vipers are ovoviviparous. The female snake retains the fertilized eggs inside her body where each developing baby snake is contained within a fibrous membrane “shell” and nourished by its yolk. When the baby snakes are fully developed, they either hatch out of the egg membrane inside the oviduct and are then “born” or they hatch just after the membranous eggs are “laid” by the mother. Typically, a clutch of eyelash vipers is six to 12 young, although more than 25 have been reported. Neonates are about six to seven inches (15 to 18 centimeters) long.
Longevity in zoos may exceed 16 years.
They were deleted from CITES Appendix III on December 12, 2002, and are no longer listed as threatened. They are preyed on by large mammals, humans, hedgehogs, foxes, badgers, other snakes, and fish. They are also preyed upon by large raptors such as the laughing falcon.
The viper is named for its most prominent and distinctive feature. Two or three scales above the eyes are elongated and spiny, giving the appearance of eyelashes.
They have inadvertently been sent throughout the world in banana shipments.