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Reptiles at the forest flor....

Peru Rainforest Amazon Pachitea Llullapichis Panguana Species Diversity : Reptilien der Bodenzone

Besides the fact that many species of lizard are to be found in the different levels of the rainforest (geckos, anoles), there are a couple of less obvious representatives of this family that stay in the brush day and night. The feared species such as the bushmaster (Lachesis muta) and the lance-headed snake (Bothrops atrox) are among them. Bothrops atrox is fairly numerous in some places and prefers to hang around near human settlements. This is mostly because the waste of the settlements attracts small mammals.

"Shushupe!" This cry electrifies everyone that lives on the Peruvian Ucayali River. Shushupe is the most feared snake of the region, in fact of the entire Amazon. Young men run to their machetes and guns to get rid of the "monstro". The bushmaster (Lachesis muta) can reach 3.80 meters, and is both the largest poisonous snake on the two American continents as well as one of the largest in the world. It belongs to the pit vipers (Crotalinae), of which the rattlesnakes (Crotalus) are also members. All crotaline snakes have an infrared sense organ between their eyes and nostrils that helps them find their prey in complete darkness. Although horror stories and half-truths about this snake about, the danger it poses cannot be denied. Because of its size it can pull itself up very high and strike lightning fast with its poisonous fangs that are up to 35 mm long. In some regions it is said that the snake will follow anyone who bothers it, and the only way to save oneself is to jump into murky water. The bushmaster eats mainly herbivores such as paka and aguti. Despite its status as the most dangerous snake in the Amazon, only 0.2 percent of snakebites registered in the Amazon are attributable to them. Accidental encounters with pit vipers happen often, yet mostly with the ground-dwelling lance-headed snake Bothrops atrox that is common in many parts. Around 70 percent of snake poisonings are attributable to this type. One should keep in mind however, that a high percentage of these accidents are due to carelessness and drunkenness.

While both of these vipers feed mainly on small mammals, the true coral snake (Micrurus surinamensis) east mostly fish, preferring eels of the genus Synbranchus above all. This eel covers a lot of distance over land in search of still water, and make easy prey for the snake. The coral snake belongs to the elapids (Elapidae), to which the African and Asian cobras also belong. The poison of the snakes in this family is a fast-working nerve poison. The bite of a coral snake often kills humans. The coral snake is not aggressive however, and has a relatively small mouth, making accidents rare.

The boa constrictor, a giant snake, crawls along the undergrowth by day and night. It searches out mostly small mammals, but doesn't mind reptiles. It is led to its prey by warmth sensors on its lips that help it find warm blooded prey.

Text und Fotos © Andreas Schlüter 2003-2004