Bushmaster, Lachesis muta

Bushmaster, Lachesis muta, from the Amazon Basin of Perú. This snake was 8-9 ft long! Photo by Bill Lamar.
Another specimen from Amazonian Perú. Photo by Bill Lamar.
The three photos above feature highly experienced Neotropical herpetologist Bill Lamar and huge specimens of the world’s largest pit viper, the bushmaster, Lachesis muta, each from Amazonian Perú. Don’t try this: Bill is an expert at safely handling large venomous snakes.
Lachesis muta from Trinidad. Photo by Bill Montgomery.

There are venomous snakes, and then there are Bushmasters! Alleged to get as large as 4 meters, with fangs 5 cm long, these snakes are loaded with copious amounts of venom. It is one of only a couple of species of snakes in the world whose venom potency, drop for drop, increases as it gets larger – and the volume of its venom grows as well.

There are four species of bushmasters that range from Nicaragua to southcentral Brazil: north to south, Lachesis stenophrys, L. melanocephala, L. acrochorda, and L. muta.

They are impressive in size, pattern, texture, potential for danger to humans, but those who know them well consider them to be of mild disposition, “gentle giants,” that need to be give their space and respect. They are also known to be rather sedentary in their habits, and may remain coiled in the same spot for long periods of time. Reproductively, they are egg-layers, unlike other pit vipers that give live birth.


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