Eyelash Viper

April 14, 2022

Eyelash viper_Costa Rica

Photographer: James Van Gundy

Summary Author: James Van Gundy

The Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii) is a member of the Pit Viper family and a relative of the North American rattlesnakes, cottonmouths. and copperheads. This viper is a small poisonous snake found in Central America and northern South America. It gets its name from the small fleshy protuberance that sits above its eyes. Across its geographic range, this snake species demonstrates a wide variety of color morphs including, red, green, and yellow forms with the yellow often predominating in areas where bananas are grown.

This particular individual was encountered at Volcan Arenal National Park in Costa Rica. The snake was perched atop a small epiphytic bromeliad on the side of a tree and was attempting to look like a large yellow flower. This stance is known as aggressive mimicry, where a predator appears to be something that is attractive to its prey. The eyelash viper preys upon a variety of small animals including lizards, frogs, and birds. The snake strikes quickly and injects its venom through two movable fangs. Like its pit viper relatives, its poison is hemotoxic.

Mimicry, or the act of attempting to look like something that you are not, is practiced widely in the animal kingdom. In contrast to the eyelash viper, animal mimicry is generally more frequently used to avoid predation than it is to foster it.

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