V is for Viper
Eyelash pit viper image by Geoff Gallice on Flikr.
Eyelash Pit Viper
Eyelash pit vipers are beautiful snakes that come in a variety of colours. They live in tropical rainforest, montane forest and cloud forest in Central and northern South America.
They are arboreal, and ambush prey – they wait hidden under leaves, and sometimes use the end of their tail as a wormlike lure for birds and other invertebrate predators.
They have pit organs between each eye and nostril and these can sense the direction and body heat of their prey.
As you can see from the lovely image, eyelash vipers are so called because they have scales that look like eyelashes. These are thought to offer some camouflage in among the leaves, breaking up the outline of their head, and also some protection from branches – they are quite rough in texture.
These vipers are extremely venomous, with large, hypodermic, fang teeth that fold back when not in use – being storable like this means they can be longer to directly inject their prey deeply with poison.
They have been shipped all over the world in consignments of bananas – be careful if you open a box from America!
They are not listed as endangered and have not been assessed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but like all rainforest creatures they are at risk of deforestation for timber, agriculture and urbanisation.
Image © as above.
Poem © Liz Brownlee.
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