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Eyelash viper

Bothriechis schlegeli

Photo: Eyelash viper
Weights and measures
Length 70 cm
Animal description
The Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegeli) is a captivating species of venomous snake, belonging to the pit viper family, and is known for its distinctive and striking appearance. This species is primarily found in Central and South America, thriving in a range of habitats from the dense, moist rainforests to the lower montane forests, demonstrating a remarkable adaptability. One of the most distinctive features of the Eyelash Viper is its set of supraorbital scales above the eyes, resembling eyelashes, which is a unique characteristic among snakes and contributes to its common name. These "eyelashes" are thought to aid in camouflage, breaking up the snake's outline among the foliage.

The Eyelash Viper is relatively small compared to other pit vipers, with adults typically reaching lengths of about 60 to 70 centimeters, though some individuals may grow larger. The body is stout and arboreal in nature, reflecting its tree-dwelling habits. The coloration of this species is highly variable, with individuals displaying a wide range of colors including yellow, green, brown, and even pink or red. This variability not only makes each individual visually unique but also provides excellent camouflage against predators and while stalking prey.

As a pit viper, the Eyelash Viper is equipped with heat-sensing pits located between the eyes and the nostrils on its head. These specialized organs allow the snake to detect warm-blooded prey even in complete darkness, making it a formidable nocturnal hunter. Its diet primarily consists of small mammals, birds, lizards, and frogs. The snake employs an ambush strategy, remaining motionless and waiting for unsuspecting prey to come within striking distance.

The Eyelash Viper is ovoviviparous, meaning it gives birth to live young rather than laying eggs. A single litter can contain anywhere from two to twenty young, depending on the size and health of the mother. The neonates are independent from birth, possessing fully functional venom glands and the ability to hunt and fend for themselves.

Despite its venomous nature, the Eyelash Viper poses little threat to humans, as it is generally not aggressive and tends to avoid encounters. However, if threatened or provoked, it will defend itself vigorously. Its venom is hemotoxic, causing tissue damage and disrupting blood clotting, which can be dangerous if not treated promptly.

Conservation-wise, the Eyelash Viper is currently not considered to be at significant risk. However, habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade pose potential threats to its populations. In its natural habitat, the Eyelash Viper plays an important role in controlling the populations of the small animals it preys upon, thus contributing to the ecological balance.

In summary, the Eyelash Viper is a fascinating and visually stunning creature, embodying the incredible diversity and complexity of the world's reptiles. Its unique features, such as the eyelash-like scales and the ability to come in a variety of colors, along with its specialized hunting techniques, make it a subject of interest both for herpetologists and wildlife enthusiasts alike.
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