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Common Lancehead / Fer-de-Lance (Bothrops atrox)



Common Lancehead / Fer-de-Lance (Bothrops atrox)
Order: Squamata, Family: Viperidae

The common lancehead is usually brown, reddish-brown, olive, green or grayish-brown in color with large, dark, pale triangles on the sides of its body. Its head is triangular and pointed. The lancehead measures 4 to 7 feet long.



I. DESCRIPTION:
  • The common lancehead is usually brown, reddish-brown, olive, green or grayish-brown in color with large, dark, pale triangles on the sides of its body.
  • Its head is triangular and pointed.
  • The lancehead measures 4 to 7 feet long.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
  • The common lancehead inhabits lowland areas of topical Mexico, Central America and northern South America.
  • It lives in open and wooded areas, and along forest edges. In drier regions, the lancehead also may occur along major rivers.
III. DIET:
  • Young lanceheads feed on lizards and anthropods; adults mainly eat small mammals (such as opossums and birds), rodents, lizards and smaller snakes.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
  • The female lancehead gives birth to a litter of up to 80 live young; hatchlings are about 1 foot in length.
  • The lancehead relies on camouflage and the pit organ located between its eye and nostril to detect warm-blooded prey. Young lanceheads wiggle the tips of their yellow tails to lure small mammals and birds; adults lurk among plants and wait for prey.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
  • The common lancehead can take on many shades for camouflage and is difficult to see on the forest floor.
  • Hatchlings are born with venom glands and are dangerous.
VI. EFFECT ON ENVIRONMENT:
  • Common lanceheads have some economic importance, as they are used in the production of antivenin.
  • The common lancehead is preyed upon by large mammals and birds of prey.
VII. POPULATION STATUS:
  • The species has no special status.
VIII. MORE COMMON LANCEHEAD FACTS:
  • The species received its common name because of its triangular head.
  • The lancehead's habit of lying in walking trails to wait for prey, and of invading plantations in search of rodents, has caused the majority of venomous snakebites to humans within its range.
  • An adult lancehead's bite is fatal to small mammals and birds. It is also harmful to humans, and without treatment can be severe to lethal.
  • The lancehead's pit organ relays thermal information about the position of its prey.
  • Lanceheads are known to be very aggressive.
  • The common lancehead is probably one of the top 25 most venomous snakes in the world.



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