Poisonous snakes of YucatanBy Valeria Bigurra Peñavera
Of the hundreds of species of poisonous snakes that exist in the world, in the Yucatan Peninsula there are only 5 that are dangerous to humans.
The Yucatan Peninsula has a variety of flora and fauna that make it a unique place in Mexico.
As an example of this, within the peninsula there are 134 species of snakes, 18% of which are considered endemic, which means that they can only be found in this region. 24 endemic species live in Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Campeche, and these are included in “at risk” categories in the Mexican Official Standard NOM- 059- Semarnat for the protection of Mexico’s native flora and fauna.
Specifically in the Yucatan peninsula there are five species of snakes that are lethal to humans. Four of them belong to the family Viperidae while one belongs to the Elapidae family.
Snakes or viperids have a pair of long fangs at the roof of their mouth and exposed when they need to attack their prey. The venom of snakes is generally haemotoxic, affecting blood cells and vascular tissues, leading to internal bleeding.
Rattlesnakes belong to this family, along with the royal nauyaca and the Russel Viper in Southeast Asia, which kills about 10,000 people a year, and is considered the most dangerous snake in the world.
These reptiles are mostly nocturnal, have wide body and triangular head, and can be found throughout the world except for Australia, oceanic islands and poles. There are 200 living species, divided into 28 genuses, of which only 4 are in the state of Yucatan:
Agkistrodon: There are 10 species belonging to this genre of which only one is in Yucatan: Agkistrodon bilineatus, commonly known as the moccasin, cantil and uolpoch in Maya.
It reaches a length of 73 cm, and is located in the Yucatan Peninsula in several locations in Campeche, Yucatan, Quintana Roo and northern Belize. It is highly poisonous and is believed to leap great lengths and can inject their venom through their fangs and tail.
Bothrops: It includes 31 living species. They mostly inhabit the tropical lowlands of South America and Central America. Of all the species of this genus, only one inhabits the Yucatán Peninsula: The Nauyaca Real, also known as spearhead, Labaria, four noses, velvet, yellow beard, and taxinchan in Maya.
The Nauyaca is the most dangerous venomous snakes in the Yucatan Peninsula and the Americas in general. It can reaches 2.4 m in length. Usually it has a gray or brown color in some cases with pink coloring. It is a viviparous species and it can bear 5 to 86 babies at a time.
Crotalus: Of the 26 species of this genus, only Crotalus Tzabcan is located in the state of Yucatan. Commonly known as a tropical rattlesnake, blood snake and tzabcan in Maya, this snake is one of the most dangerous of Yucatan.
Males reaching a maximum length of 1.60m female 1.55m, and their tail ends in a “bell” formed by keratin.
They live mainly in the jungles of Yucatan and Campeche but they can also be found in the high jungle of Quintana Roo.
Prothidium: In the Yucatan Peninsula two species of this genus are found: Porthidium nasutum and Porthidium Yucatanicu. Only the second one can be found in the state of Yucatan.
Also known as 4 noses, hook nose snake, and Chac-cam in Maya, it is the smallest on the peninsula belonging to the family of the viperids. Females reach 46.2 cm long and males reach 36.8 cm. They are gray and sometimes have orange or reddish spots, with series of dark spots in a triangle downwards, with white lines on the contours.
These are poisonous snakes found throughout the world, which include famous species like the king cobra, the coral snake and mambas.
They have short, fixed fangs, with varied levels of poisons. They also tend to have much more dangerous toxins, which tend to affect the victim’s nervous system.
The only specimens from this family in Yucatán are those of the Micrurus genus, commonly known as coral snakes. They are slender and small, with small eyes and cylindrical body. They are brightly colored yellow rings arranged in black, red, usually with a black ring between two yellows. There are about 50 species of coral snakes, of which only three are in the Yucatan Peninsula.
And only one in the state of Yucatan: the Micrurus diastema. It reaches a maximum size of 65 cm in length. It is the most poisonous species of Yucatan, but is shy and passive, so it does not pose a great danger to humans.
It is important to remember that while an encounter with one of these creatures can be dangerous, snakes are not generally aggressive and will most likely try to escape if it is approached by a human. The venom snakes are known – and often maligned – for is used to secure food and you can be sure that, at least in the Yucatán Peninsula, human beings are not on the menu.
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