Species: Golden lancehead (Bothropoides insularis)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: The golden lancehead is unique to a tiny island off the coast of Brazil, where has a total range of just 0.43 square kilometres.
The golden lancehead is a highly venomous pitviper with heat-sensitive pits on its face which help it to detect prey. Although its mainland relatives feed mainly on rodents, this island species has switched to a diet of birds. To prevent its prey from flying away before the snake’s highly toxic venom can take effect, the golden lancehead holds it in its mouth after biting it. This snake is unusual in that it appears to exist as three genders: males, females, and ‘intersex’ females, which have both female and male reproductive organs.
The golden lancehead has a small population which is entirely restricted to one tiny island, making it particularly vulnerable to any threats. Its forest habitat is being lost due to clearance and burning, and the snakes themselves are collected illegally for the wild animal trade. Conservation efforts are underway to study and monitor the golden lancehead, and there are plans to breed it in captivity and research the potential medicinal uses of its venom. Educational programmes and more effective enforcement may also help protect this fascinating snake.
Find out more about conservation efforts for the golden lancehead at Neotropical Snakes Conservation.
Find out more about snakes on the ARKive snakes page.
Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author