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Bothrops jararaca (WIED-NEUWIED, 1824)

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Higher TaxaViperidae, Crotalinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Jararaca, lancehead
G: Jararaca
Portuguese: Boca-Podre, Cabeça-de-Patrona, Caiçaca, Caissaca, Cola-Branca, Jaraca, Jaracá, Jaracuçu, Jaracuçu-Quatro-Ventas, Jaracuçu-Venenoso, Jararaca, Jararaca-Comum, Jararaca-da-Mata-Virgem, Jararaca-do-Campo, Jararaca-do-Mato, Jararaca-do-Rabo-Branco, Jararaca-Dormideira, Jararaca-Dorminhoca, Jararaca-Preguiçosa, Jararaca-Rabo-de-Osso, Jararaca-Verdadeira, Malha-de-Sapo, Patrona, Preguiçosa, Quatro-Ventas, Urutu, Urutu-Amarelo, Urutu-Preto 
SynonymCophias jajaraca [sic] WIED 1824: 1103
Bothrops megaera WAGLER 1824: 50 (preocc. by Bothrops megaera SHAW)
Bothrops leucostigma WAGLER 1824: 53
Bothrops tessellatus WAGLER 1824: 54
Bothrops taeniatus WAGLER 1824: 55
Cophias jararakka — WIED 1825
Bothrops jararaca — WAGLER 1830
Bothrops jararaca — DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1854: 1509
Lachesis lanceolatus BOULENGER 1896 (part.)
Bothrops jararaca — PETERS & OREJAS-MIRANDA 1970: 46
Bothrops jararaca — CEI 1993
Bothrops jararaca — MCDIARMID, CAMPBELL & TOURÉ 1999: 262
Bothropoides jararaca — FENWICK et al. 2009
Bothropoides jararaca — OLIVEIRA et al. 2010
Bothrops jararaca — CARRASCO et al. 2012
Bothropoides jararaca — WALLACH et al. 2014: 113
Bothrops jararaca — NOGUEIRA et al. 2019 
DistributionBrazil (S Bahia, Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, Parana, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, E Mato Grosso),
NE Paraguay, Argentina (Misiones)

Type locality: Mucurí, Lagoa de Arara, Brasil [WIED 1824]  
TypesHolotype: iconotype, based on Lief. 7, pl. 3 in Wied-Neuwied, 1824
Holotype: ZSM, uncatalogued specimen(s) (lost) [leucostigma]
Lectotype: ZSM 2699/0, juvenile, “Habitat ad flumen St. Francisci” [Brazil, Rio São Francisco, probably near Pedras de Maria da Cruz (15°37'S, 44°23'W), near Januaria (15°29'S, 44°23'W), or near Joazeiro (09°24'S, 40°30'W)] according to the original description and Vanzolini (1981), collected by Spix and Martius expedition to Brazil, 1817-1820 [Bothrops tessellatus] 
DiagnosisDescription: “A slender, terrestrial lancehead, B. jararaca may be as long as 160cm in TL (Brazil, 1911), although the average length is considerably less.
The color pattern is extremely variable and is subject to many anomalies. The dorsal ground color may be tan, brown, gray, yellow, olive, or nearly maroon; it is usually somewhat darker on the head and the anterior and posterior portions of the body. The dorsum of the head often bears diffuse dark markings on the occipital area, but these may be absent or obscured by darker pigment. A prominent, dark brown postorbital stripe extends from behind the eye to the angle of the jaw, usually encroaching on the posterior 3 supralabials. This stripe is bor­ dered dorsally by a distinct pale zone. The canthal region and supralabials are otherwise unmarked, although some speci­ mens may bear a dark spot between supralabials 3 and 4. The iris is gold to greenish gold with slightly darker reticulations. The tongue is black.
The dorsal pattern consists of a series of pale-edged, dark brown trapezoidal or subtriangular markings on either side of the body, their apices on the vertebral line. These markings may be either opposite each other or partially to completely juxta­ posed; most individuals have all three variations. The pale borders of the brown markings are usually diffuse but broad, and the dorsal markings are heavily invaded basally by the paler ground color. The configuration of each dorsal marking is subject to considerable, and often extreme, variation, with elon­ gations, fusions, and fragmentations occurring. In some speci­ mens the middorsal region is unmarked and the dorsal pattern is reduced to a pair of undulating dorsolateral stripes. The inter­ spaces tend to have irregular, diffuse mottling, especially on the posterior third of the body. In many specimens the basal inva­ sions of ground color into the dorsal blotches may have distinct shapes with well-defined edges, creating a C-shaped mark resembling the outline of a headphone. The overall pattern becomes more concentrated on the tail, usually appearing as irregular pale gray markings on a dark ground color. The venter is pale greenish to yellowish white with irregular blotching or a powdering of gray pigment; alternatively, it may be uniformly gray. The tip of the tail of juveniles is white.
Machado (1945c) and Lema (1960c) described color variants in which the middorsum was almost uniformly brown and the lateral dark blotches were drawn out into a broad, broken stripe.
There are 5-12 weakly keeled intersupraoculars; 7-9 supra­ labials (usually 8; one record each for 6 and 10), the second fused with the prelacunal; 9-13 infralabiais (usually 10-12); 20-27 (usually 23-25) midbody dorsal scale rows; 170-216 (rarely as many as 218) ventrals; and 51-71 (single records for 35 and 44 doubtful) mostly divided subcaudals.” (Campbell & Lamar 2004: 391)

Comparisons: “Five species of lanceheads at least partially sympatric with B. jararaca share a similar pattern and have the second supralabial fused with the prelacunal to form a lacuno-labial. Bothrops jararacussu is a larger, heavier snake with a dis­ tinctive dorsal pattern often including bold cream or yellow markings; the outer internasals are in contact with each other medially (separated in B. jararaca). Although there is overlap, B. jararacussu generally has fewer intersupraoculars (4-8) and fewer ventrals (166-186) than B. jararaca. Bothrops moojeni is a heavier snake that usually has 7 supralabials (usually 8 in B.
jararaca), a pale venter (Brazilian populations), a higher and paler canthus, a narrower postorbital stripe that usually encroaches only on the 2 posteriormost supralabials, and a dis­ tinctive but poorly defined pair of sinuous nape markings. Both­ rops muriciensis has a combination of characters—including a relatively low number of ventrals, enlarged canthals, absence of a dark postocular stripe, fewer than 15 dorsal blotches, smooth intersupraoculars, and fewer than 26 interrictals—that distin­ guishes it from B. jararaca. Bothrops pirajai is a heavier snake that usually has 7 supralabials, 155-164 ventrals, and 43-53 subcau­ dals. Bothrops leucurus has a distinctly marked head and a pattern that includes numerous irregular dark spots and blotches in the interspaces within the primary system of dorsal markings; there are 7 supralabials, a slightly raised canthus, and considerable dark spotting on the labials.” (Campbell & Lamar 2004: 392)

Sexual dimorphism: Siqueira et al. 2022. 

Bothrops jararaca is responsible for most of the 26,000 recorded snake bites in Brazil each year.

A peptide derived from the venom of the jararaca, has been developed into several drugs (ACE inhibitors) used for the treatment of high blood pressure, e.g. Captopril, Enalapril and Lisinopril.

Synonymy after CEI 1993. Bothrops tessellatus Wagler, 1824 is a synonym of Bothrops atrox (Linnaeus, 1758) according to Hoogmoed & Gruber (1983). et al. 2022:

Distribution: see map in Barbo et al. 2022: 149 (Fig. 1). 
EtymologyThe species epithet is derived from the Tupi words yarara and ca, meaning "large snake." 
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  • ZANELLA, N., PAULA, A., GUARAGNI, S.A. & MACHADO, L.S. 2013. Herpetofauna of the Parque Natural Municipal de Sertão, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Biota Neotrop. 13(4): 290-299 - get paper here
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