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Lachesis spp., Bushmaster

Clinical entries


  • 1. Lachesis acrochorda
  • 2. Lachesis melanocephala
  • 3. Lachesis muta
  • 4. Lachesis stenophrys


Two subspecies of Lachesis muta are described (Campbell and Lamar 2004):

Lachesis muta muta

Lachesis muta rhombeata


Serpentes; Viperidae; Crotalinae

Common names

Bushmaster, Buschmeister

  • 1. Choacan bushmaster
  • 2. Black-headed bushmaster
  • 3. South American bushmaster
  • 4. Central American bushmaster



  Fig. 4.77 Lachesis muta muta.



From southern Nicaragua to eastern Peru and northern Brazil. Trinidad. Separate population on the east coast of Brazil. See link "Distribution" at the top of the page for detailed information.


  Map 62 Lachesis spp.


Subspecies that are not further differentiated in the Distribution tables:


-Lachesis muta muta: central and southern Colombia, central and eastern Ecuador, northeastern and eastern Peru, northern and eastern Bolivia, southern and eastern Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana, northern, (central) and western Brazil;

-Lachesis muta rhombeata: western Brazil.


With a length of up to more than 3.6 m, this is the largest species of the Viperidae. Exceedingly sturdy body with distinct, wide, rounded head. Eyes comparatively small. Basic colouring brownish, at times with shades of red or yellow. Rows of dark triangles along both sides of the spine which taper towards the belly and have a lighter patch in the centre.

Active in the evening and at night. A fairly uncommon species whose habitat is primary rainforest, remote from civilisation.

If the Bushmaster encounters humans during the day, it is said to be relatively unaggressive. During its nocturnal phase of activity, however, it shows marked defensive behaviour and is easily provoked into striking. When provoked, it inflates its neck and vibrates the tip of its tail. Populations on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica are said to be aggressive at any time of the day or night.


Because these snakes live remote from civilisation, accidents are rare in many regions. Envenoming should be taken seriously and can end fatally.

These snakes account for fewer than 3% of the total number of recorded snakebites in Brazil (Ribeiro 1990b). There is an unusually high incidence of bites in Ecuador, where in a series of identified snakebites, around 40% were due to the Bushmaster (Kerrigan 1991).

Literature (biological)

Bolanos 1984, Campbell and Lamar 1989, 2004, Chippaux 1986, Lancini 1986, Pérez-Santos and Moreno 1988, Villa 1984