Yellow Eyelash Palm-Pitviper Discovered in Ecuador

Yellow Eyelash Palm-Pitviper Discovered in Ecuador

Recently, a team of herpetologists from Tropical Herping were working in Ecuador and discovered a snake that had never been seen in South America.

An Oropel, or Yellow morph Eyelash Palm-Pitviper

The serpent in question is the yellow morph of the Eyelash Palm-Pitviper (Bothriechis schlegelii) or “Oropel” and the following are some of the reasons why this is such an important discovery:

  • A famous first for Ecuador: Although the mottled green form of the Eyelash Palm-Pitviper occurs in humid forest habitats of northwestern Ecuador, until this discovery, the yellow form was only found in Central America, and had never been found in South America. Its striking golden coloration makes it one of the most searched for arboreal vipers in the neotropical region.

    The regular green morph of this species.

    Another Eyelash Palm-Pitviper.

  • Humid forests near the coast: In Costa Rica, the Oropel typically occurs in humid forest in the lowlands and foothills. In Ecuador, it was found in similar habitats near the coast. It has yet to be found east of the Panama Canal or in Colombia and Venezuela. Previous reports from Venezuela pertain to specimens from Costa Rica.

    A close look.

  • Why the bright yellow color?: It seems strange that a brightly colored snake can survive in rainforest habitats and the reason for the eye-catching golden color is unknown. However, some herpetologists suspect that it might need less camouflage during the night.

    A gorgeous snake!

  • A new species?: Preliminary DNA studies seem to indicate that the Oropel in Ecuador is probably an undescribed species distinct from the Oropel of Costa Rica. The other varieties of Eyelash Palm-Pitviper in Ecuador might also be undescribed, cryptic species.
  • A threatened snake: The Eyelash Palm-Pitvipers in Ecuador, including this recent discovery, are threatened by habitat loss as well as collection for the pet trade. Since less than 3% remains of its humid lowland forest habitat, this probable new species is very likely also endangered.

    It’s easy to see why this beauty would be targeted for the pet trade.

Learn more about the rich herpetofauna of Ecuador at the Tropical Herping site.

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