The eyelash pit viper (Bothriechis schlegelii) occurs in most of the wet regions of Costa Rica, from sea-level to up to 1.500 meters in elevation. Females are larger and more robust than males reaching up to 80cm. They are members of the family of the Viperidae and called pit vipers because of their heat-sensing pit organ between the eye and nostril. This distinguishes them from the old world vipers. Their fangs are large and collapsible (solenoglyphous dentition), capable of delivering venom deep into their prey. They mostly prey on lizards, rodents, frogs, bats and sometimes small birds. When disturbed these snakes prefer bluffing over striking. They are more “sit and wait” predators. Once they grab their prey they firmly hold on to them until the venom has done its work. This is an effective method when living an arboreal life.
Polymorphic means that they occur in several morphs or forms, because the eyelash pit viper comes in a high variety of colors and color combinations. The most famous version is ‘the oropel’ or ‘golden’ morph, which can be bright yellow or yellow combined with white, black, red and so on. There is even a ‘christmas’ version, whereby the snakes are green with hard shaped red dots or hearts. Other snakes of this species are grey, brown, orange, white, even pink ones have been seen! They are viviparous snakes, giving live birth from 6 to 19 neonates. In one litter several of the different colors can occur. Births occur during rainy season, when there is an abundance of small frogs.
Eyelash pit vipers got their name from the modified scales above the eyes, the supraocular scales. Probably these serve to protect the eyes when foraging through dense vegetation. This is where they hide out in the daytime and hunt when night falls.
By Roel de Plecker
CONTACT: Roel de Plecker – Reptilandia