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Lachesis muta

Common names: South American bushmaster, more.

Lachesis muta is a venomous pitviper species found in South America. Two subspecies are currently recognized, including the nominate subspecies described here.


Adults grow to an average of 2 to 2.5 m, although 3 m is not too unusual. The largest recorded specimen was almost 3.65 m long, making this the largest of all pit vipers and the longest venomous snake in the western hemisphere.

The head is broad and very distinct from the narrow neck. The snout is broadly rounded. There is no canthus. A pair of small internasals is present, separated by small scales. The supraoculars are narrow. Other parts of the crown are covered with very small scales. Laterally, the second supralabial forms the anterior border of the loreal pit, while the third is very large. The eye is separated from the supralabials by 4-5 rows of small scales.

The body is cylindrical, tapered and moderately stout. Midbody there are 31-37 nonoblique rows of dorsal scales which are heavily keeled with bulbous tubercles and feebly imbricate. There are 200-230 ventral scales. The tail is short with 32-50 mainly paired subcaudals, followed by 13-17 rows of small spines and a terminal spine.

The color pattern consists of a yellowish, reddish or grey-brown ground color, overlaid with a series of dark brown or black dorsal blotches that form lateral inverted triangles of the same color. The lateral pattern may be precisely or indistinctly defined, normally pale at the center.

Common names

South American bushmaster. Known as the mapepire zanana or mapepire grande (pronounced ma-pa(y)-PEE za-Na-na or ma-pa(Y)-PEE GRAN-dey) in Trinidad and Tobago,Mendes, John. 1986. Cote ce Cote la: Trinidad & Tobago Dictionary, Arima, Trinidad, p. 95. surucucu in the Amazon Basin, and shushupe in Peru. In Venezuela the species is known as cuaima. In Colombia it is known as verrugosa

and in Suriname as makka sneki and makkaslang. or verrugoso due to the warty look of its scales.


Lachesis is one of the three Fates in Greek mythology and was supposed to assign to man his term of life -- something this species is certainly capable of doing. The species is similar in appearance to rattlesnakes and vibrates its tail vigorously when alarmed, but has no rattle and was therefore called mutus (later muta), which is Latin for dumb or mute. However, when in the undergrowth, the tail actually makes quite a loud rustling noise.

Geographic range

Found in South America in the equatorial forests east of the Andes: Colombia, eastern Ecuador, Peru, northern Bolivia, eastern and southern Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana and much of northern Brazil. The type locality is "Surinami" (Surinam).

The species is also found on the Island of Trinidad.


Occurs in primary and secondary forests; adjacent fields and cleared areas. In Trinidad it tends to prefer hilly and mountainous regions.


Some reports suggest that this species produces a large amount of venom that is weak compared to some other vipers. Lachesis muta, The Silent Fate at South American Pictures. Accessed 26 October 2006. Others, however, suggest that such conclusions may not be accurate. These animals are badly affected by stress and often do not last long in captivity. This makes it difficult to obtain "good, healthy" venom for study purposes. For example, Bolanos (1972) observed that venom yield from his specimens fell from 233 mg to 64 mg while they remained in his care. As the stress of being milked regularly has this effect on venom yield, it is reasoned that it may also affect venom toxicity. This may explain the disparity described by Hardy and Haad (1998) of the low laboratory toxicity versus the high mortality rate of bite victims.

Brown (1973) gives the following LD50 values for mice: 1.5 mg/kg IV, 1.66.2 mg/kg IP, 6.0 mg/kg SC. He also mentions a venom yield of 200-411 mg.


Some sources still refer to two additional subspecies, L. m. melanocephala and L. m. stenophrys. However, both were elevated to species level by Zamudio and Green in 1997 (see L. melanocephala and L. stenophrys).

See also

List of crotaline species and subspecies


Further reading

Bolanos R. 1972. Toxicity of Costa Rican snake venoms for the white mouse. Amer. Jour. Trop. Med. Hyg. 21:360-363.

Hardy DL Sr, Haad JJS. 1998. A review of venom toxinology and epidemiology of envenoming of the bushmaster (Lachesis) with report of a fatal bite. Bull. Chicago Herp. Soc. 33(6):113-123.

O'Shea M. 2005. Venomous Snakes of the World. Princeton University Press. 160 pp. ISBN 0-691-12436-1.

Zamudio KR, Greene HW. 1997. Phylogeography of the bushmaster : implications for neotropical biogeography, systematics and conservation. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 62:421-442. PDF at Cornell University, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Accessed 26 October 2006.

External links

Ripa Ecologica. Accessed 26 October 2006.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Lachesis muta

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