|Bushmaster (Lachesis muta) from Peru|
|Ditmars filming the Bushmaster "Lecky" at the Bronx Zoo in 1934|
©WCS. Courtesy of the WCS Archives
|The first photograph of a female Bushmaster guarding her eggs,|
taken by C.S. Rogers in Trinidad, was published in Ditmars (1910),
and subsequently as a postcard sold at the Bronx Zoo.
The snake was a captive in the possession of R.R. Mole.
|Ditmars wears a snake fang tie pin|
on the book's cover
You can read two other reviews of Eatherley's book, published last month in Copeia and Herpetological Review.
2 Strangely, bushmasters seem to be one of the only vipers where this shift is not well-documented. Collecting data on young snakes is hard, and the venom study found that venom chemistry became more adult-like after just one year, so perhaps we've just missed the shift. Another hypothesis is that bushmasters tend to hold onto their prey after striking it, unlike other vipers which strike, release, and relocate, so perhaps the rapid immobilizing venom components have been replaced by a mechanical means of immobilization.↩
3 Regarding their maximum length, Campbell & Lamar's authoritative reference on venomous reptiles of the western hemisphere says: "Documented reports of measured specimens are scarce, however, and the maximum length has been the subject of some hyperbole. Hoge and Lancini (1962) claimed 4.5 m, Abalos (1977) claimed 3.5 m, Ditmars (1937) mentioned specimens of 11 feet (3.35 m) but apparently never saw one exceeding 3m, Bellairs (1969) gave the maximum length as between 3.05 and 3.36m, Dunn (1951) gave the maximum length as 14 feet (4.27 m), and Mertens (1960) listed 13 feet (3.96 m) as the maximum size. Sandner-Montilla (1994) claimed a record of 5.28 m for a Venezuelan specimen of L. muta (with 6-cm fangs!), but such records must be placed in the same realm as 20-m anacondas and other legendary monsters.", and concludes "The great majority of adult specimens of all species of Lachesis measure less than 2.5 m, and 3.5 m is likely near the maximum size."↩
4 Bushmasters play other roles in human culture as well—as food. Bora and Yagua Indians in eastern Peru consider them a delicacy. They are certainly one of the few snakes large enough to make a filling meal for a family.↩
Campbell, J. A., and W. W. Lamar. 2004. The Venomous Reptiles of the Western Hemisphere (2 Vol.). Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York <link>
Ditmars, R. L. 1910. Reptiles of the World : Tortoises and Turtles, Crocodilians, Lizards, and Snakes of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Macmillan Co., New York <link>
Gutiérrez, J., C. Avila, Z. Camacho, and B. Lomonte. 1990. Ontogenetic changes in the venom of the snake Lachesis muta stenophrys (bushmaster) from Costa Rica. Toxicon 28:419-426 <link>
Eatherley, D. 2015. Bushmaster: Raymond Ditmars and the Hunt for the World's Largest Viper. Arcade Publishing, New York, New York <link>
Foster, C. D. 2015. Bushmaster: Raymond Ditmars and the Hunt for the World’s Largest Viper [book review]. Copeia 103:1107-1109 <link>
Novotny, R. J. 2015. Bushmaster: Raymond Ditmars and the Hunt for the World's Largest Viper [book review]. Herpetological Review 46:657-659 <link>
Wood, L. N. 1944. Raymond L. Ditmars: His Exciting Career With Reptiles, Animals and Insects. The Junior Literary Guild and Julian Messner, Inc., New York <link>
Zamudio, K. R., and H. W. Greene. 1997. Phylogeography of the bushmaster (Lachesis muta: Viperidae): implications for neotropical biogeography, systematics, and conservation. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 62:421-442 <link>