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South American Bushmaster

Lachesis muta muta

Silent Fate

The bushmaster's scientific name, Lachesis muta, means "silent fate". Lachesis was one of the three Greek Fates, responsible for determining the length of thread spun for a person's life. Muta comes from the snake's ability to shake its tail like a rattlesnake, but without the noisy rattle. With this name and the potentially deadly venom of the bushmaster, they are feared in their native range of South America.

About the Species

The bushmaster is one of the longest venomous snakes in the world, with some reaching 12 feet.

The bushmaster's body is typically colored a yellowish, reddish or grey-brown color with dark brown or black patches that form triangles along its back. The head of the South American bushmaster is broad, distinct from its more cylindrical neck and rest of body. Around the dark triangles along its body is a row of scales, usually lighter in color, providing a sharp contrast between the black/brown triangles of its back and brown, yellowish color of the rest of its body. The venom of a bushmaster attacks the circulatory system. Due in part to their large size, the bushmaster also produces a large quantity of venom. While they are still a very dangerous species, some of their reputation may be over-hyped. Bushmasters are extremely elusive, sit-and-wait predators. They may remain in one location for days waiting for prey to cross their path.

Words From the Experts


The largest pit viper in the world, this snake is also a bit of an oddball due to the fact that it lays eggs while most pit vipers give birth to live young.



Did You Know?

The bushmaster's tail ends with a thorny spine which it sometimes vibrates when disturbed in a similar manner to rattlesnakes. This led to some calling it "the mute rattlesnake"


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Central and South America, Trinidad

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Tropical forests

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2 to 2.5 m

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Rodents, birds, amphibians, insects

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No natural predators

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Natural Defenses

Toxic venom a

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8–16 eggs per clutch

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Not Listed

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Life Expectancy

12–18 years in human care

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