The Costarican Hognosed Pitvipers

Porthidium porrasi juvenile head, White-Tailed Hognosed Pitviper, snake

Porthidium porrasi juvenile, White-Tailed Hognosed Pitviper

The genus Porthidium or Hognosed pitvipers in Costa Rica are represented by four species. Two of them are endemic, the White-tailed Hognosed Pitviper (Porthidium porrasi) and the Costa Rican Hognosed Pitviper (Porthidium volcanicum). The latter has the most restricted distribution, being the vicinity of Buenos Aires, although there is a record from the Chiriqui area in Panama. The White-tailed Hognosed Pitviper is found only on the Osa Peninsula and the region around the Golfo Dulce, so far the only endemic Porthidium species of Costa Rica. Porthidium nasutum or the Rainforest Hognosed Pitviper is an inhabitant of the forests on the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica.

The Western Slender Hognosed Pitviper (Porthidium ophryomegas) can be found in the dry forests of Guanacaste. All the species of Porthidium are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young.

Last year we, at Reptilandia, were the first facility to breed the White-tailed Hognosed Pitviper in captivity. One of our females gave birth to 9 little vipers, all born with fangs and venom since snakes are independent from the day they get born. Hog-nosed pitvipers are terrestrial, crepuscular, and nocturnal. With their camouflage pattern, they hide on the forest floor waiting in ambush for frogs, lizards or little rodents. They grab their prey with their solenoglyph or large movable fangs and immobilize it with their venom.

Porthidium volcanicum, Costa Rican Hognosed Pitviper, sanke

Porthidium volcanicum, Costa Rican Hognosed Pitviper

If the victim is not too big, they prefer to hold on, minimizing the risk to lose it. However, Porthidium ophryomegas seems to prefer the bite and release tactic. Human envenomation is rarely fatal but causes severe pain and possible tissue damage or necrosis. Our Hognosed pitvipers have strongly elevated snouts, similar to a small horn or proboscis. Only the Slender Hognosed Pitviper lacks this characteristic. It is also the one that can be seen hanging out on lower vegetation. The purpose of their elevated snout might be an adaptation for living between the leaf-litter. They are moderately small snakes and mostly don’t exceed 65 cm, although exceptions are possible. Spotting these pitvipers in the wild is challenging. You can admire them at Reptilandia!

~by Roel de Plecker

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