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Trigonocephalus lachesis, Lachesis muta
Indigeneous: Surukuku, Couanacouche
English: Bushmaster Snake
Venom: should be stored in Glycerin.
Animalia; Chordata / Vertebrata - Vertebrates; Reptilia - Reptiles; Serpentes - Snakes; Crotalidae
Hering, on July 28th, 1828.
Proving records appear in TF Allen's Encyclopedia of Pure Materia Medica; and in Hughes & Dake, Cyclopedia of Drug Pathogenesy.
Description of the substance
The genus Lachesis is most generally considered to contain a single species, Lachesis muta, which is disjunctly distributed widely in lower Central America and northern South America. Typical habitat is in tropical rainforests and lower montane wet forests, most often found about large buttressed trees; Lachesis is never found far from primary growth. The specie is in some schemes broken into 3 or 4 subspecies on the basis of subtle differences (L.m.muta, L.m.stenophrys, L.m.melanocephala, L.m.noctiava, & L.m.rhombeata); in other schemes, L.stenophrys and L.melanocephalus are considered distinct species. Of these, it is L.muta muta which is found in the equatorial forests of eastern Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and northern Bolivia, northwestern Brazil, eastern Venezuela, Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana; & this is the subspecie that would have been available to Hering in Surinam.
L.mutus rhombeata is found in the Atlantic coastal forests of east-central Brazil; the other described subspecies are found in southern Central America, from southern Nicaragua to the Pacific coastal regions of Columbia and northern Ecuador.
This is the largest of the New World venomous snakes, and the longest viper in the world. It commonly exceeds 2m (6.5'), and may reach 3.6m (11.8') in length. Among vipers it is unique in laying eggs, rather than giving birth to live young.
The aggressiveness of this species has been greatly exaggerated. Lachesis mutus accounts for less than 1% of all venomous snake bites in Central and South America; there are reliable records of only 25 cases of human envenomation. Although bites are rare, case-fatality is considerably higher than that of the other South American crotalinids (Crotalus durissus, Bothrops spp.), even with antivenom therapy. Death from a bite usually occurs on the 3rd to 5th day, from shock secondary to massive swelling, suppuration of tissues, and overwhelming infection; without the major organ hemorrhage seen in other crotalinid envenomations.
Lachesis muta is the largest of the pit vipers, a family which includes the rattle snake and the copperhead. It is found in the relatively cool, moist tropical forests of Central and South America. (See map of their range in Picture section).
The snake is an oviparous species, which means the young hatch from eggs, whereas all the other New World pit vipers bring forth their young fully formed.
Lachesis can exceed 2 metres in length, the largest ever recorded was 4.267 metres. Its slightly flattened body may be as thick as a man's thigh and is patterned along the back with large diamond patches of blackish brown colour, each of which encloses two spots of the colour of the body. There is a pronounced ridge of hard sharp scales running down the centre of the back. The skin is shed in the spring.
The broad wedge-shaped head is flattened with an upturned snout. The fangs are very long, as much as 1.4 inches (35mm) in a large individual. These hollow teeth can penetrate deeply and are attached at the front of the upper jaw in a hinge like manner. They fold back and are stored along the roof of the mouth when not in use. If a fang is injured it is shed and a new one grows in its place.
The venom, shot from the extremity of the fang, resembles saliva but is less viscous. It is limpid, inodorous, without any marked taste, and is greenish in colour. it easily forms into drops, and falls without threading. When exposed to the air it soon concentrates into a dry, yellow mass, which preserves its poisonous qualities for an indefinite period.
The tongue of the snake constantly flicks in and out through a small hole in the closed mouth. It acts as an odour detecting device.
When agitated or provoked the snake will display a formidable defense posture. The neck is inflated and the tail tip (which consists of a slender burr-like arrangement of scales) is shaken against foliage to make a threatening sound.
Lachesis avoids sunlight and especially temperatures over 80 ºF by going underground into deep burrows. It may also choose to move into the cooler high regions of the jungle. It is a nocturnal creature, hunting and feeding during the dark hours.
Few bites have been recorded, due mainly to its nocturnal nature, but also perhaps its lack of aggression. In the wild the snake eats mainly small mammals. When it strikes its victim, Lachesis drops its mandible which automatically rotates left to right. As it swallows its prey whole, its ribs (400 or more) move left-right, left-right, in a peristaltic swallowing rhythm. All the creature's organs are found on the left side of its body. It has only one lung, and has no shoulder or pelvic girdle. This combination of features enables the snake to swallow whole game, so large that it is the equivalent of a normal sized adult human male downing a 150 lb steak in one bite.
The snake is completely deaf, yet has highly developed heat-sensing pits (hence the name pit viper) or prey-location organs, midway between the eyes and the nose. These work like an infra-red sensor, enabling it to clearly sense and stalk animals from up to 200 metres, in pitch darkness. Lachesis can strike so fast that three strikes can appear as one. It will repeatedly strike and envenomate a rapidly moving target with total absence of visual clues but with extreme accuracy. A mere thousandth of a degree Fahrenheit is enough difference in temperature to alert the snake. Water evaporating from a frog's moist skin into dry air is sufficient to signal its presence to the Bushmaster.
Lachesis is solitary except when mating. It shows a very high sexual energy. Males often apparently cannot, or do not, distinguish between sexes during the mating season.
A male will seek a receptive female by following her scent trail. On finding her he rubs his head and flicks his tongue along the sides of her body to state his intentions and make sure she is receptive. If she is, he flips his body upside down on top of hers and rubs his spinal ridge back and forth in a sawing motion against her body to stimulate her. If she is coiled up, he may also strike her with the side of his body, to encourage her to unloosen her coils and allow him access. When she uncoils they wrap their bodies around each other and mate in that position. The male has a two headed penis, or 'hemipenes' with 65-80 moderate sized reversing spines which, when either head is inserted into the female, enables the pair to stay coupled during their highly energetic reproductive act, sometimes remaining together for five or more hours.
There is a recorded event of two captive Lachesis in a zoo in the eastern United States that copulated continuously, at times violently, for twenty-two hours.
When a female is ready to lay her eggs, she finds a burrow built by another small animal to claim as her own, sometimes sharing the burrow with the animal that built it. She then lays 8 to 12 eggs, each of which is white and slightly larger than a chicken egg. After laying her eggs, the female coils her body around them and guards them until they hatch 76-79 days later. She will not leave her eggs even to hunt during this period.
Newly born Lachesis are about 20 inches (50 cm) long. They are pale-coloured, with a bright orange or yellow tail tip which may help the young snakes attract small, insectivorous mammals to eat. They gradually lose the colouring on the tail as they get older. The overall colour will usually change to the dark adult pattern when the snake is between 1-2 years old. Sexual maturity is typically reached around 4 years.
Life span in the wild is unknown. In captivity they often die but can live 12-18 years, with a recorded maximum life span of 24 years.
Lachesis muta, appartiene all'infraordine degli Xenophidi, famiglia Crotalidi.
Viene considerato tra i serpenti velenosi più grandi ed è secondo come taglia soltanto al "Cobra reale".
Vive in alcune zone della foresta tropicale del Sud America, e si ritrova anche nell'America centrale.
La lingua inglese lo identifica come "The Bushmaster" che letteralmente vuol dire "Il padrone del bosco".
Realmente è così perché è un animale che non solo manifesta la sua potenza con la sua mole, ma anche per i suoi attacchi mortali sia a persone che ad animali.
Si tratta di un rettile dalla natura aggressiva dovuta soprattutto dai suoi morsi dolorosissimi perché la sua bocca è dotata di vere e proprie zanne molto grandi, che oltre a provocare un dolore insopportabile veicolano una grande quantità di veleno mortale. Si ricorda che la percentuale del tossico è in relazione anche alla mole dell'animale.
Fortunatamente si hanno pochi rapporti circa gli attacchi sull'Uomo poichè il Lachesis ha una vita notturna.
Quando si prepara ad attaccare la sua preda perché è irato, inizia a far vibrare rapidamente la coda, senza emettere il classico tintinnio tipico del Serpente a sonagli.
Il suo corpo presenta una lunghezza con una media di 2,6 metri ma che può arrivare ai 3,6 metri.
La sua pelle presenta un disegno costituito da macchie marroni scure lungo la schiena mentre i lati del corpo appaiono di un marrone pallido. Si riproduce depositando le uova, è l'unica vipera dalle fossette che si comporta così.
Nella mitologia Greca il Lachesis rappresentava la divinità del destino,nel senso che aveva la facoltà di determinare la durata della vita umana.
Il morso di Lachesis può essere fatale, in linea generale la vittima che viene attaccata da questo rettile si lamenterà del forte dolore consequenziale al morso, vista la presenza delle vere zanne che ha quest'animale, ed inseguito vi sarà un violento edema con distruzione del tessuto locale insieme all'innesco dei processi di coaugulopatie, a cui seguiranno ipotensione, diminuzione del polso e del ritmo cardiaco, intensi dolori colici e diarrea ematica.
Dal punto di vista ematologico, il veleno del Lachesis esaurisce la protrombina e il fibrinogeno, con la conseguente problematica dell'instaurarsi della DIC e con un incremento del tempo di sanguinamento, che potrà essere osservato dalle emorragie rettali, dalle ferite e dalle mucose gengivali. I leucociti possono aumentare di numero, l'ematocrito può elevarsi, ma generalmente la morfologia citologica ematica rimane invariata.