Pitviper, Eyelash Palm


Bothriechis schlegelii


The eyelash palm pitviper is a small, venomous species of pitviper found in Central America. They have two to three elongated scales above the eyes giving the appearance of eyelashes, also giving them their common name. They have a triangular head and a body covered in keeled scales. The keeled scales gives them a rough, sharp texture and are thought to aid in protection from the shrubbery they inhabit. The body can be yellow, green, or pinkish in color. They grow to an average length of 22 to 32 inches.

Family

Viperidae

Order

Squamata

Class

Reptilia

Range

Southern Mexico and Central America to northern South America

Habitat

Shrubbery, palms, and trees of forested areas

Life Expectancy

In the wild, approximately 10 years. In captivity, up to 16 years.

Sexual Maturity

2 years of age

Diet

In the wild, Eyelash Palm Pitvipers eat birds, small mammals, frogs, and lizards. In the zoo, they are fed a diet of mice and rats.

Status

IUCN - Not Listed

Behaviors

Eyelash palm pitvipers are arboreal, venomous snakes. Due to the habitats they live in, eyelash pitvipers are smaller than other pitvipers. They have two to three elongated scales, or “eyelashes”, above their eyes that are thought to provide protection. Eyelash palm pitvipers are mostly nocturnal, resting motionless in a hunting posture during the day. While hunting, they cover a substantial distance. When prey is located, they will paralyze the prey with hemotoxic venom. To locate prey, eyelash palm pitvipers use several resources such as heat imaging and well-developed vision. Additionally, they have the ability to sense chemical changes in the air by flicking their tongues and can use their primitive ear structures to sense vibrations of prey and potential mates. Breeding occurs year round, usually one to two times a year. Males partake in a “dance of the adders” when competing for a female. The male then approaches the female while swaying his head. They align their bodies until their vents are touching and the male fertilizes the eggs inside the female’s body through her cloaca with one of his hemipenes. Eyelash palm pitvipers are ovoviviparous, which means the eggs are fertilized internally and the young are born fully developed. Clutch size is typically 6-12 young that are born at an average size of 6-7 inches long. Young will usually feed on lizards and frogs.

Adaptions

Special Interests

Folklore

Conservation

The major threat to the eyelash palm pitviper population is habitat loss due to deforestation.

Jacksonville Zoo History

Exhibit

Range of the Jaguar