The bushmaster (Lachesis muta) is a crotaline, or pit-viper, belonging to the snake grouping Viperdae, which includes night adders, Old World vipers and adders, and pit-vipers (Greene, 1997; Pough et al., 1998). Viperids are a venomous grouping of snakes with 28 genera and 230 species that live in a wide variety of habitats located on every continent except Australia and Antarctica (Grzimeks; Greene, 1997). The geographic distribution of bushmasters ranges from southern Central America to northern South America. Bushmasters are restricted to lowland rainforest habitats. At greater than the meters in length, the bushmaster is the largest of the New World crotalines (Pough et al., 1998).
Crotalinae includes 16 genera and 157 species that are located throughout the Americas and Asia. Pit-vipers are named for their facial pits, a sensory organ capable of detecting infrared stimuli (Grzimeks; Greene, 1997; Pough et al., 1998). Pit-vipers are well known for the buzzing sound created when individuals rattle their tails. This sound is produced by a series of keratin segments that accumulate at the base of the tail each time skin is shed. The best known example of this anatomical feature is in the rattlesnake (Grzimeks; Pough et al., 1998).
The diet of bushmasters includes mostly rodents. Females often will create their nests in rodent burrows (Greene, 1997). Unlike other New World croatlines which give live birth, the bushmaster is oviparous and requires a nest in which to lay eggs (Greene, 1997; Pough et al., 1998).
Additional Information on the Skull
Click on the thumbnails below for labeled images of the skull in standard anatomical views.
About the Species
About this Specimen
The specimen was scanned by Richard Ketcham on 8 September 2004 along the coronal axis for a total of 660 slices. Each 1024x1024 pixel slice is 0.119 mm thick, with an interslice spacing of 0.119 mm and a field of reconstruction of 56 mm.
Hutchins, M., J. B. Murphy, and N. Schlager (eds.) 2003. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition. Volume 7, Reptiles. Gale Group, Farmington Hills, MI. 593 pp.
Greene, H. W. 1997. Snakes. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. 351 pp.
Pough, F. H., R. M. Andrews, J. E. Cadle, M. L. Crump, A. H. Savitzky, and K. D. Wells. 1998. Herpetology. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ. 577 pp.
Zamudio, K. R. 1997. Phylogeography of the bushmaster (Lachesis muta: Viperidae): implications for neotropical biogeography, systematics, and conservation. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 62:421-442.
bushmaster fact sheet from Zoo.org
Viperidae page from the EMBL Reptile Database
Three-dimensional volumetric renderings of the skull with the hyoid and jaw removed, and of the isolated left mandible. All are less than 2mb.