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Bothrops spp., Lance heads


See also Atropoides spp., Bothriechis spp., Bothriopsis spp., Bothrocophias spp., Cerrophidion spp. and Porthidium spp.


  • 1. Bothrops alcatraz
  • 2. Bothrops alternatus
  • 3. Bothrops ammodytoides
  • 4. Bothrops andianus
  • 5. Bothrops asper
  • 6. Bothrops atrox
  • 7. Bothrops ayerbei
  • 8. Bothrops barnetti
  • 9. Bothrops brazili
  • 10. Bothrops caribbaeus
  • 11. Bothrops cotiara
  • 12. Bothrops diporus
  • 13. Bothrops erythromelas
  • 14. Bothrops fonsecai
  • 15. Bothrops insularis
  • 16. Bothrops itapetiningae
  • 17. Bothrops jararaca
  • 18. Bothrops jararacussu
  • 19. Bothrops jonathani
  • 20. Bothrops lanceolatus
  • 21. Bothrops leucurus
  • 22. Bothrops lojanus
  • 23. Bothrops lutzi
  • 24. Bothrops marajoensis
  • 25. Bothrops marmoratus
  • 26. Bothrops matogrossensis
  • 27. Bothrops moojeni
  • 28. Bothrops muriciensis
  • 29. Bothrops neuwiedi
  • 30. Bothrops osbornei
  • 31. Bothrops otavioi
  • 32. Bothrops pauloensis
  • 33. Bothrops pictus
  • 34. Bothrops pirajai
  • 35. Bothrops pubescens
  • 36. Bothrops punctatus
  • 37. Bothrops rhombeatus
  • 38. Bothrops roedingeri
  • 39. Bothrops sanctaecrucis
  • 40. Bothrops sazimai
  • 41. Bothrops sonene
  • 42. Bothrops venezuelensis


Fenwick et al. (2009) review the classification of the genus Bothrops and associated genera. Based on their analyses, they recognise five genera: Bothrocophias, Bothriopsis, Rhinocerophis (new) for the alternatus group (alternatus, ammodytoides, cotiara, fonsecai, itapetiningae, jonathani), the new genus Bothropoides for the jararaca and neuwiedi groups (alcatraz, diporus, erythromelas, insularis, jararaca, lutzi, marmoratus, mattogrossensis, neuwiedi, pauloensis, pubescens), and the genus Bothrops for the remaining species of the jararacussu, punctatus and atrox groups. Several species have affinities that are insufficiently resolved to allow placement in a particular genus: barnetti, pictus, roedingeri and lojanus.


Bothrops andianus is redescribed as Bothrocophias andianus by Carrasco et al. (2012)


Serpentes; Viperidae; Crotalinae

Common names

Lance heads, Fer de lance, Lanzenottern

  • 1. Alcatrazes lancehead
  • 2. Urutu
  • 3. Patagonian lancehead
  • 4. Andean lancehead
  • 5. Terciopelo
  • 6. Common lancehead
  • 7. Patian lancehead, Ayerbe's lancehead, Cacica, Eqis patiana
  • 8. Barnett's lancehead
  • 9. Brazil's lancehead
  • 10. Saint Lucia lancehead
  • 11. Cotiara
  • 12. Chaco lancehead
  • 13. Caatinga lancehead
  • 14. Fonseca's lancehead
  • 15. Golden lancehead
  • 16. Sao Paulo lancehead
  • 17. Jararaca
  • 18. Jararacussu
  • 19. Cochabamba lancehead
  • 20. Martinique lancehead
  • 21. Bahia lancehead
  • 22. Lojan lancehead
  • 23. Cerrado lancehead
  • 24. Marajo lancehead
  • 25. Marbled lancehead
  • 26. Matogrosso lancehead
  • 27. Brazilian lancehead
  • 28. Murici lancehead
  • 29. Neuwied's lancehead
  • 30. Osborne's lancehead
  • 32. Black-faced lancehead
  • 33. Desert lancehead
  • 34. Piraja's lancehead
  • 35. Pampas lancehead
  • 36. Chocoan lancehead
  • 37. Cat lancehead, Cauca valley yellow lancehead, Eqis gata, Eqia amarilla del Valle del Cauca
  • 38. Roedinger's lancehead
  • 39. Bolivian lancehead
  • 40. Franceses Iland lancehead
  • 42. Venezuelan lancehead



  Fig. 4.71 Bothrops asper



Main distribution area South America. B. asper is the only Bothrops species in Central America and Mexico. See link "Distribution" at the top of the page for detailed information.

  Map 46 Bothrops spp.



Ground-dwelling snakes that are also capable of climbing. Mostly strong, long body with an elongated, tapering head that is distinct from the body, similar to the tip of a lance (thus the name "Lance heads"). Several smaller species under 1 m but also larger species of 1–2 m (B. alternatus, B. brazili, B. carribaeus, B. cotiara, B. jararaca, B. marajoensis, B. moojeni, B. venezuelensis) or more (B. asper, B. atrox, B. jararacussu, B. lanceolatus).


Many of the larger species are very difficult for lay persons to tell apart. Basic colouring in shades of grey or brown with small shapes that lose their form or larger shapes consisting of triangular, trapezoidal or semicircular markings along both sides of the spine. In B. alternatus these markings have a distinctive shape that resembles a telephone receiver.

Generally nocturnal. Habitats range from arid regions in the lowlands to cloud forests at 2,500 m above sea level, some species (e.g. B. andianus) even up to an altitude of over 3,000 m.

Often synanthropic. In particular those species that frequently cause serious accidents are found in agricultural areas, e.g. B. alternatus (especially in sugar cane plantations), B. asper, B. atrox or B. jararaca. B. atrox is also found close to human settlements and in green areas in cities.

Generally irritable and quick to strike. When threatened they dart towards the cause of the disturbance, so that sometimes their whole body is lifted off the ground.


Between 80 and 90% of cases of snake envenoming in Latin America are caused by Lance heads (Clark 1942, Jutzy et al. 1953, Sass 1979, Cardoso 1990, Ribeiro 1990b).

The most dangerous species, which are responsible for many bites and which are known to regularly cause deaths, are B. asper in Central America, B. atrox, B. jararaca and B. jararacussu, and to a lesser extent also B. alternatus, B. moojeni, B. neuwiedi and B. erythromelas in South America.

Although the percentage mortality due to the South American Rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus) is higher, Lance heads claim the most lives on the American continent as a whole. They are the cause of high morbidity, more than all other New World venomous snakes.

According to a study of the first half of this century for Central and South America, of a total of 6,601 recorded cases of snakebite envenoming, 4,902 cases were attributed to various Bothrops species; of these, 3,446 cases were attributed to the species B. jararaca (Rosenfeld 1971).

For the year 1989, the Brazilian Ministry of Health recorded a total of 20,748 snakebites, of which around 67% were attributed to the Bothrops genus (Cardoso 1990). Other data from Brazil record 20,884 snakebites over a period of one and a half years (1986–87), of which around 88% were caused by Bothrops sp., with a mortality of 0.5%. Most accidents occur during the day in rural areas with basic agriculture (Ribeiro 1990b). In this context, the most significant species are B. atrox in the Amazon region, B. moojeni in the central west, B. erythromelas in the northwest and B. jararaca in southeast Brazil (Cardoso 1990).

The great majority of cases of envenoming in southern Colombia are due to B. atrox (Haad 1980/81).

In a clinical study from Ecuador, around 60% of verified bites were due to Bothrops sp. (Kerrigan 1991).

The only species from Central America, B. asper, is responsible in many regions for the greatest number of and most dangerous accidents due to venomous snakes. In the Canal Zone of Panama, around 90% of significant bites are caused by this species (Sass 1979). In neighbouring Costa Rica, the most common victims are generally younger plantation workers (Minton 1980).

Literature (biological)

Barbo et al. 2012, 2016, Bolanos 1984, Campbell and Lamar 1989, 2004, Carrasco et al. 2019, Chippaux 1986, Da Silva and Rodrigues 2008, Folleco-Fernandez 2010, Lancini 1986, Pérez-Santos and Moreno 1988, Schätti and Kramer 1993, Villa 1984, Wallach et al. 2014

The Reptile Database