While snakes are feared, it should not be a reason not to explore what makes them such fascinating creatures. In this article, we will learn about fer-de-lance (Bothrops aspers). This pit viper species of snake is found in Central and South America and has is known by many common names. In Spanish, this snake is referred to as Cuatro Narices; in English, it is called Tericiopelo. Even in different countries, it has its own unique name. Bothrops asper is referred to as barba amarilla, mapepire balsain, carpet labaria, yellow-jaw tommygoff, and nauyaca in Guatemala, Trinidad, Guyana, Belize, and Mexico, respectively, where Spanish is the primary language. Living close to urban centers, these snakes pose the most threat to humans. This species is nocturnal and camouflages with leaf litter during the day to ambush prey. These snakes are very unpredictable and aggressive to the extent that field biologist David Hardy (1994) called it the 'ultimate pit viper'.
Dorsal side: Olive, brown, tan Ventral side: Yellow, cream
What are their main threats?
What is their conservation status?
Where you'll find them
Tropical rainforest, the outer edge of savannas
South America, Mexico
Fer-De-Lance Interesting Facts
What type of animal is a fer-de-lance?
Fer-de-lance is a species of snake that belongs to the genus Bothrops. Notably, the name fer-de-lance is applicable to many different species in the genus Bothrops. Bothrops caribbeaus and Bothrops atrox are often referred to as fer-de-lance. It was decided by herpetologists to refer to Borthops aspers by the name terciopelo.
What class of animal does a fer-de-lance belong to?
Fer-de-lance being a viper belongs to the class Reptilia. Additionally, it belongs to the order Squamata, suborder Serpentes, family Viperidae, and finally, the genus Bothrops.
How many fer-de-lances are there in the world?
There are no reliable estimates of the total population of the terciopelo.
Where does a fer-de-lance live?
Fer-de-lance has a wide range of geographical distribution in South, Central America, and West Indies. In Central areas of America, it is found in places like Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, among many other areas. As for Mexico, these snakes are found along the Gulf-Atlantic versant all the way to Tamaulipas. As we move towards to northern region of South America, you can expect significant populations in Colombia, Guyana, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The altitudes they inhabit in these different areas also vary. For instance, in Mexico and Central America, they are found in the range of sea level to 39000 ft (11887 m). Whereas, in South America, this range's upper limit is about 8200 ft (2499). Notably, this is the only species of the genus Bothrops that is found on the island of Trinidad.
What is a fer-de-lance's habitat?
The habitats that terciopelo may be found in are just as diverse as their geographical range. In general, though, they prefer moist environments and are thus, found in tropical rainforests. In contrast to this preference, they may also be found in arid tropical deciduous forests and pine savannas. The elevation of their habitat range from as low as 2000 ft (610 m) to higher elevations in the montane forests of Costa Rica.
Who do fer-de-lances live with?
Fer-de-lance is not a social animal and lives most of its life alone, with the breeding season being a notable exception.
How long does a fer-de-lance live?
The lifespan of the terciopelo or the barba amarilla is between 15 and 21 years in captivity. It is hard to recapture terciopelo; thus, their exact lifespan in the wild is not known.
How do they reproduce?
The male fer-de-lance performs a series of movements to initiate mating. The male follows the willing female snake to copulate. This is the most common snake in the continent of America as a whole. They breed during the rainy season when food sources are plenty. Keeping in mind the diverse population ranges, terciopelo reproduction varies from place to place. In the Atlantic regions of Costa Rica, terciopelo mates in march, while in the Pacific region of Costa Rica, they mate between September and November. The larger the female, the more the number of offspring, thus the litter size ranges from 5-86. They do not lay eggs. Instead, they are viviparous. The gestation period of the terciopelo is between six to eight months.
What is their conservation status?
Being the most common species of snakes in America, it is suggested by experts that the species should be listed as Least Concern by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation for Nature). Although, the species has not yet been evaluated by the IUCN. Despite their ability to thrive in a wide range of habitats, their numbers are declining due to urbanization, contamination, and deforestation.
Fer-De-Lance Fun Facts
What do fer-de-lances look like?
Bothrops asper has a range of colors that they may have on their dorsal side, such as olive, gray, tan, brown, or even black. As for their more visible ventral side, it is yellow, white-gray, or cream in color with dark smudges. Belonging to the genus Bothrops, terciopelos have distinct broad and flatheads that are dark brown in color. These snakes have more scales than the average scale numbers to prevent water loss. Fer-de-lance is often confused for Bothrops atrox, which shares the same name. Bothrops atrox does look similar but have yellow tones and blotches shaped like trapezoids.
How cute are they?
Snakes are some of the most universally feared creatures. Attitudes towards terciopelo are no different. While they are beautiful snakes, they aren't first the animals that seem deserving of the adjective 'cute'.
How do they communicate?
Snakes use a lot of body language cues to communicate the intent to mate.
How big is a fer-de-lance?
Bothrops paper is a relatively large species of snake. Their length generally varies between 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m). The biggest females can blow past the upper limit and be about as long as 8.2 ft (2.5 m). Of the two sexes, the female is bigger. In fact, the size of the female's head is about two times the male's head. For comparison, the bigger ones are slightly smaller than the pit vipers.
How fast can a fer-de-lance move?
Fer-de-lance is a fast snake, which is a trait especially helpful when they hunt. Their exact speed is not known, but if the speeds of other snakes are anything to go off of, then the fer-de-lance can reach speeds between 10-12 mph (16-19 kph).
How much does a fer-de-lance weigh?
Fer-de-lance adult specimens may weigh about 13 lb (6 kg). It must be noted that female is significantly larger and heavier than the male.
What are the male and female names of the species?
There are no unique names for the male and female of this species.
What would you call a baby fer-de-lance?
Fer-de-lance's baby is often referred to as a snakelet.
What do they eat?
The fer-de-lance is a diet generalist that preys on a wide variety of small animals. Their diet preference changes as they mature. As juveniles, they prefer ectothermic prey, while as adults, they rely more on endothermic animals. Examples of its ectothermic prey include grasshoppers, crayfish, toads, beetles, among many others. The endothermic animals they prey on include bay wrens, common possums, dusky rice rats, mice, and least shrews.
Are they poisonous?
Fer-de-lance is a pit viper and is thus a venomous species. The yield of their venom is about 0.016 oz (0.5 g). In rare cases, their venom can be fatal to humans. It can inject its venom too from the tips of its fangs across a distance of over 6 ft (1.8 m).
Would they make a good pet?
It is not the best idea to keep a venomous snake that may bite you as your pet. You may need to find a specialized reptile seller to buy this snake.
Did you know...
Fer-de-lance name is French for 'iron of the lance', or simply 'spearhead' or 'lancehead'. The English term 'lancehead' is used for the whole of genus Bothrops, Patagonian lancehead, and Andrean lancehead.
Bothrops is derived from the Greek word 'bothros' (meaning pit)and 'ops' (meaning face). This name is an acknowledgment of the heat-sensitive pit organs of the lancehead snakes.
Fer-de-lance is a name of a combat ship in the game, 'Elite Dangerous'. You can buy the fer-de-lance combat ship in different stations in the game like Magnus Gateway or Hopkins Port.
Fer-de-lance bite is the leading cause of snakebite incidents in many places where they have a significant population. Being bitten by the barba amarilla is not a pleasant experience, although the fatality rate has gone down from 9% in 1984 to almost 0% in Costa Rica. In other regions such as Colombia, with different healthcare facilities, the fatality rate still is about 6%. You can survive a fer-de-lance if you get immediate medical attention. The bite becomes fatal based on the location of the bite.
The bite may cause pain, oozing, swelling, mild fever, bleeding, among a plethora of other things. Safe to say that you should stay clear from a terciopelo and seek immediate medical attention if you do get bit.
Do people eat fer-de-lances?
It is not common for people to eat a fer-de-lance. This snake is venomous, which makes it an unnecessarily risky food choice.
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