Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ophidian Spotlight: WAGLER'S VIPER (Tropidolaemus wagleri)


This gorgeous nocturnal and arboreal (tree dwelling) pit viper (the family of venomous snakes with heat sensing pits on the face) is found in the forests of SE Asia, in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.

A captive Wagler's Viper uses its tongue to smell its surroundings, as all snakes do, using the Jacobson's Organ (a scent organ) in the roof of the mouth. Therefore, remember to wear deodorant around them, you dirty Euro-Trash!

They are also referred to as Temple Vipers, because of their abundance near some Buddhist temples in Malaysia, where they are allowed to pass in the temples and are even sometimes handled.

The belief amongst many zookeepers and snake enthusiasts for a long time was that they were mildly venomous and never bit, because of the practice of handling amongst some Buddhist monks. It turns out that the monks in Malaysia would often sew their mouths shut or defang them... although it is true that this species can often be lethargic and docile.

The Wagler's does in fact have a strong Hemotoxic (acting on the blood and blood vessels) venom, that it uses to prey upon small arboreal animals, like birds, frogs, lizards, and rodents. It is an ambush predator, staying very still for hours to days waiting for prey to come by, when it suddenly and quickly strikes.

Although venom is used for defense as well with Vipers and Pit Vipers, bites inflicted for defense usually inject less venom than those intended to subdue prey. Notice the slit/cat-like pupil that is indicative of the Pit Vipers.

There is some geographic variation in the color and pattern of this species (you will notice the variation by looking back on previous pics), but much of the variation is random and not at all geographic. There is also a sexual dimorphism, difference in body form between the sexes, as with most snakes, the females get larger than the males.

The original Latin name for this species, Lachesis wagleri. Today the genus name Lachesis is used only for The Bushmasters, a group of large neotropical (found in the tropical regions of the Americas) pit vipers.

What do you mean, "why aren't you smilin?"? This IS my smile!

1 comment:

Wolf said...

wow, shit. what a gorgeous thing. i want one....
and what do you know, my favourite snake is Lachesis, but the muta muta, the bushmistress. why the hell did they call those lachesis too? that's weird. do they lay eggs as well, like muta?
anyway, thanks a lot. she's goddamn pretty.