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Bothrops is a genus of pitvipers endemic to Central and South America.[1] The generic name, Bothrops, is derived from the Greek words bothros, meaning "pit", and ops, meaning "eye" or "face", together an allusion to the heat-sensitive loreal pit organs. Members of this genus are responsible for more human deaths in the Americas than any other group of venomous snakes.[2] Currently, 32 species are recognized.[3]


These snakes range from small, never growing to more than 50–70 cm (20–28 in), to large at over 200 cm (6.6 ft) in total length. Most are characterized by having a sharp canthus rostralis and an unelevated snout.[2]

The arrangement of the scales on top of the head is extremely variable; the number of interorbital scales may be 3-14. Usually there are 7-9 supralabials and 9-11 sublabials. There are 21-29 rows of dorsal scales at midbody, 139-240 ventral scales, and 30-86 subcaudals, which are generally divided.[2]

Common names[edit]

Lacépède originally applied the name "lanceheads"[2] to all of these snakes, which he considered conspecific. Thus, older writings, as well as popular and sometimes scientific writings (including the American Heritage, Merriam-Webster, and New Shorter Oxford dictionaries), still often call them fer-de-lance (French, "iron of the lance"). However, many scientists and hobbyists now restrict this name to the Martinican species, B. lanceolatus. Other common names include American lanceheads and American lance-headed vipers.[4]

Geographic range[edit]

Found in northeastern Mexico (Tamaulipas) southward through Central and South America to Argentina, Bothrops species also occur on the islands of Saint Lucia and Martinique in the Lesser Antilles, as well as on Ilha da Queimada Grande off the coast of Brazil.[1]


Most species are nocturnal, although a few found at higher altitudes are active during the day. Otherwise, they may be seen on cloudy days or during periods of rain. Most are terrestrial, though all are capable of climbing. One species, B. insularis, which is endemic to Ilha da Queimada Grande, is considered to be semiarboreal. This species, unlike most Bothrops, preys primarily on birds, due to the absence of native mammal species on Queimada Grande. This feeding habit probably accounts for their more arboreal lifestyle compared with their mainland cousins.[2]


Members of this genus are responsible for more fatalities in the Americas than any other group of venomous snakes. In this regard, the most important species are B. asper, B. atrox and B. jararaca. Without treatment, the fatality rate is estimated to be about 7%, but with treatment this is reduced to 0.5-3%.[2]

Typical symptoms of bothropic envenomation include immediate burning pain, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, sweating, headache, massive swelling of the bitten extremity, hemorrhagic blebs, local necrosis, bleeding from the nose and gums, ecchymosis, erythemia, hypotension, tachycardia, coagulopathy with hypofibrinogenemia and thrombocytopenia, hematemesis, melena, epistaxis, hematuria, intracerebral hemorrhage and renal failure secondary to hypotension and bilateral cortical necrosis. There is usually some discoloration around the bite site, and rashes may develop on the torso or the extremities.[2]

In general, death results from hypotension secondary to blood loss, renal failure, and intracranial hemorrhage. Common complications include necrosis and renal failure secondary to shock and the toxic effects of the venom.[2]


Species[3]Taxon author[3]Subsp.*[3]Common name[2]Geographic range[1]
B. alternatusA.M.C. Duméril, Bibron & A.H.A. Duméril, 18540UrutuSoutheastern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and northern Argentina (in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Catamarca, Córdoba, Corrientes, Chaco, Entre Ríos, Formosa, La Pampa, Misiones, San Luis, Santa Fe, Santiago del Estero and Tucumán.
B. ammodytoidesLeybold, 18730Patagonian lanceheadArgentina in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Catamarca, Córdoba, Chubut, La Pampa, La Rioja, Mendoza, Neuquén, Río Negro, San Juan, San Luis, Santa Cruz and Tucumán
B. andianusAmaral, 19230Andean lanceheadSouthern mountains of Peru in the departments of Cuzco and Puno at elevations of 1800–3300 m
B. asper(Garman, 1884)0Terciopelo, fer-de-lanceAtlantic lowlands of eastern Mexico and Central America, including Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, a disjunct population occurs in southeastern Chiapas (Mexico) and southwestern Guatemala, northern South America in Colombia and Venezuela[1] Also in Ecuador.[2]
B. atrox(Linnaeus, 1758)0Common lanceheadTropical lowlands of South America east of the Andes, including southeastern Colombia, southern and eastern Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana, eastern Ecuador, eastern Peru, northern Bolivia and the northern half of Brazil
B. barnettiParker, 19380Barnett's lanceheadAlong the Pacific coast of northern Peru at low elevations in arid, tropical scrub
B. braziliHoge, 19540Brazil's lanceheadEquatorial forests of southern Colombia, eastern Peru, eastern Ecuador, southern and eastern Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana, Brazil and northern Bolivia
B. campbelliFreire-Lascano, 19910Ecuadorian toadheaded pitviperPacific lowlands and slopes from west-central Colombia to Ecuador
B. caribbaeus(Garman, 1887)0Saint Lucia lanceheadSt. Lucia, Lesser Antilles, apparently restricted to the low elevation periphery of all but the southern third and extreme northern tip of the island
B. colombianusRendahl & Vestergren, 19400Colombian toadheaded pitviperPacific versant of Colombia
B. cotiara(Gomes, 1913)0CotiaraAraucaria forests of southern Brazil in the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, northeastern Argentina in Misiones Province
B. erythromelasAmaral, 19230Caatinga lanceheadNortheastern Brazil in the states of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, extreme eastern Maranhão, Minas Gerais, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte and Sergipe
B. fonsecaiHoge & Belluomini, 19590Fonseca's lanceheadSoutheastern Brazil in the states of northeastern São Paulo, southern Rio de Jeneiro and extreme southern Minas Gerais
B. hyoprorusAmaral, 19350Amazonian toadheaded pitviperNorthwestern South America in the equatorial forests of southern Colombia, eastern Ecuador, northeastern Peru and western Brazil
B. iglesiasiAmaral, 19230Cerrado lanceheadNortheastern Brazil in northern Piaui state
B. insularis(Amaral, 1922)0Golden lanceheadQueimada Grande Island, Brazil
B. itapetiningae(Boulenger, 1907)0São Paulo lanceheadSoutheastern Brazil in the states of Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso, São Paulo, and on the Paraná Plateau
B. jararaca(Wied-Neuwied, 1824)0JararacaSouthern Brazil, northeastern Paraguay and northern Argentina (Misiones)
B. jararacussuLacerda, 18840JararacussuEastern Brazil (from Bahia to Santa Catarina), Paraguay, southeastern Bolivia and northeastern Argentina (Misiones Province)
B. jonathani(Harvey, 1994)0Cochabamba lanceheadThe Altiplano of central Bolivia in the department of Cochabamba, occurring at elevations of 2800–3200 m in dry, rocky grassland
B. lanceolatusT(Bonnaterre, 1790)0Martinique lanceheadMartinique, Lesser Antilles
B. leucurusWagler, 18240Bahia lanceheadEastern Brazil along the Atlantic coast from northern Espírito Santo north to Alagoas and Ceará, occurs more inland in several parts of Bahia, uncertain identity of disjunct populations west of the Rio São Francisco
B. lojanusParker, 19300Lojan lanceheadSouthern Ecuador in the provinces of Loja and Zamora-Chinchipe at elevations of 2100–2250 m
B. marajoensisHoge, 19660Marajó lanceheadNorthern Brazil in the coastal lowlands of the Amazon Delta
B. microphthalmusCope, 18750Small-eyed toad-headed pitviperAmazonian slopes and lowlands of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia
B. moojeniHoge, 19660Brazilian lanceheadCentral and southeastern Brazil, eastern Paraguay, northeastern Argentina (Misiones) and likely eastern Bolivia
B. neuwiediWagler, 182411Neuwied's lanceheadSouth America east of the Andes and south of 5°S, including Brazil (southern Maranhão, Piauí, Ceará, Bahia, Goiás, Mato Grosso, an isolated population in Amazonas, Rondônia and all southern states), Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina (Catamarca, Córdoba, Corrientes, Chaco, Entre Ríos, Formosa, Jujuy, La Pampa, La Rioja, Mendoza, Misiones, Salta, San Juan, San Luis, Santa Fe, Santiago del Estero and Tucumán) and Uruguay
B. pictus(Tschudi, 1845)0Desert lanceheadPeru on the hills of the Pacific coastal region and versant up to about 1800 m elevation
B. pirajaiAmaral, 19230Piraja's lanceheadBrazil in central and southern Bahia state and possibly also Minas Gerais
B. pradoi(Hoge, 1948)0Brazil in central Espírito Santo state
B. sanctaecrucisHoge, 19660Bolivian lanceheadBolivia in the Amazonian lowlands from the departments of El Beni to Santa Cruz
B. venezuelensisSandner-Montilla, 19520Venezuelan lanceheadNorthern and central Venezuela, including the Cordillera de la Costa (coast range) and the states of Aragua, Carabobo, the Federal District, Miranda, Mérida, Trujillo, Lara, Falcón, Yaracuy and Sucre

*) Not including the nominate subspecies.
T) Type species[1]


Other (new) species may be encountered in literature, such as:

  • B. alcatraz - Marques, Martins & Sazima, 2002. Range: Brazil (São Paulo), common name: jararaca-de-Alcatrazes
  • B. muriciensis - Ferrarezzi & Freire, 2001. Range: northeastern Brazil (Alagoas), ccommon name: Murici lancehead.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, vol. 1. Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Campbell JA, Lamar WW. 2004. The Venomous Reptiles of the Western Hemisphere. Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca and London. 870 pp. 1500 plates. ISBN 0-8014-4141-2.
  3. ^ a b c d "Bothrops". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 3 November 2006. 
  4. ^ U.S. Navy. 1991. Poisonous Snakes of the World. US Govt. New York: Dover Publications Inc. 203 pp. ISBN 0-486-26629-X.


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