Eyelash Pit Viper
Eyelash pit vipers have highly variable colouration. They may be a grayish green, golden, red, brown or orange-yellow. This can be patterned with markings of speckles or crossbands that are black, red, yellow and peach though some have a solid colour. Solid colour is most common in the yellow individuals. Their scales are rough and sharp if touched.
This variable colouration is an adaptation to allow them to camouflage in their environment. While yellow may not seem a good camouflage colour these individuals are typically found in areas with large amounts of bananas and as such they blend in with this fruit.
Their name is drawn from the scales over the eyes which resemble an eyelash. The purpose of these is not clear but it has been suggested that it may keep vegetation out of the eyes while moving through the vegetation. They have a triangular head. Their pupils are a long vertical slit.
They are one of the smallest venomous snakes in South America. They measure 45-75cm (18-30in) and weigh 225g (8oz). Females are typically larger than males.
The eyelash pit viper is a carnivore. They feed on small mammals, birds, lizards and frogs. Once a prey item is captured they use their long fangs to inject the hemotoxic venom, this venom affects the blood and nervous systems.
Typically they are a sit and wait predator and they will lie in rest till prey items come along at which point they strike.
Water is obtained from droplets accumulated in the trees.
South and Central America is the native home of the eyelash pit viper. Here they can be found throughout Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
Due to their habitat of living in banana plantations they have been sent to a number of countries in banana shipments though no invasive colonies have established.
Eyelash pit vipers are found in tropical, montane and cloud forests. With the expansion of agriculture in their range they have been found in coffee and banana plantations.
Mating can take place throughout the year. Males engage in a mating display in which two males face each other in an upright stance and attempt to push their rival to the ground and intimidate them. This display may last for several hours. A successful male will then mate with the nearby females with mating typically taking place at night.
Males may mate with many females across their life.
The eyelash pit viper incubates their eggs internally. The eggs hatch inside the body after a 6 month gestation before exiting the body. During the late stages of incubation females typically stop eating. Each group of young may include up to 20 individuals.
At birth the young are about 20cm (7.9in) long and resemble small versions of the adult. They are independent from day one and receive no care from the mother after birth. At birth they can inject venom straight away.
The young typically feed primarily on frogs. Due to this diet they spend more time on the ground than adults.
Sexual maturity is reached at 2 years old.
Eyelash vipers are primarily arboreal spending most of their time in the trees.
They are primarily nocturnal with most of their activity taking place at night.
Similar to all other snakes they have primitive ears. These sense nearby vibrations rather than hearing sounds. They also detect chemical changes by flicking their tongue.
Predators and Threats
Due to their small size the eyelash viper faces many predators. These may include badgers, hedgehogs, foxes, birds of prey and cats.
One way they can stop predation is using their venom to bite a potential predator.
Humans are affecting their population through habitat degradation. They do have some ability to survive in agricultural areas though.
They are also known as the eyelash palm pit viper or eyelash viper.
Used under license
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