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A Production of

Lachesis muta, Bushmaster
The Deep Scaly Project - Multiple Institutions
Lachesis muta
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Field Museum of Natural History (FMNH 31178)

Image processing: Dr. Jessie Maisano
Publication Date: 06 Nov 2006


The bushmaster (Lachesis muta) is a crotaline, or pit-viper, belonging to the snake grouping Viperdae, which includes night adders, Old World vipers and adders, and pit-vipers (Greene, 1997; Pough et al., 1998). Viperids are a venomous grouping of snakes with 28 genera and 230 species that live in a wide variety of habitats located on every continent except Australia and Antarctica (Grzimeks; Greene, 1997). The geographic distribution of bushmasters ranges from southern Central America to northern South America. Bushmasters are restricted to lowland rainforest habitats. At greater than the meters in length, the bushmaster is the largest of the New World crotalines (Pough et al., 1998).

Crotalinae includes 16 genera and 157 species that are located throughout the Americas and Asia. Pit-vipers are named for their facial pits, a sensory organ capable of detecting infrared stimuli (Grzimeks; Greene, 1997; Pough et al., 1998). Pit-vipers are well known for the buzzing sound created when individuals rattle their tails. This sound is produced by a series of keratin segments that accumulate at the base of the tail each time skin is shed. The best known example of this anatomical feature is in the rattlesnake (Grzimeks; Pough et al., 1998).

The diet of bushmasters includes mostly rodents. Females often will create their nests in rodent burrows (Greene, 1997). Unlike other New World croatlines which give live birth, the bushmaster is oviparous and requires a nest in which to lay eggs (Greene, 1997; Pough et al., 1998).

Additional Information on the Skull

Click on the thumbnails below for labeled images of the skull in standard anatomical views.

Dorsal view

Lateral view

Ventral view

About the Species

This specimen was collected in Panama by H. C. Clark. It was made available to The University of Texas High-Resolution X-ray CT Facility for scanning by Dr. Jessie Maisano of The University of Texas at Austin and Mr. Alan Resetar of the Field Museum. Funding for scanning and image processing was provided by a National Science Foundation Assembling the Tree of Life grant (EF-0334961), The Deep Scaly Project: Resolving Squamate Phylogeny using Genomic and Morphological Approaches, to Drs. Jacques Gauthier of Yale University, Maureen Kearney of the Field Museum, Jessie Maisano of The University of Texas at Austin, Tod Reeder of San Diego State University, Olivier Rieppel of the Field Museum, Jack Sites of Brigham Young University, and John Wiens of SUNY Stonybrook.

Lachesis muta
Lateral view of the scanned specimen.

About this Specimen

The specimen was scanned by Richard Ketcham on 8 September 2004 along the coronal axis for a total of 660 slices. Each 1024x1024 pixel slice is 0.119 mm thick, with an interslice spacing of 0.119 mm and a field of reconstruction of 56 mm.

About the


Hutchins, M., J. B. Murphy, and N. Schlager (eds.) 2003. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition. Volume 7, Reptiles. Gale Group, Farmington Hills, MI. 593 pp.

Greene, H. W. 1997. Snakes. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. 351 pp.

Pough, F. H., R. M. Andrews, J. E. Cadle, M. L. Crump, A. H. Savitzky, and K. D. Wells. 1998. Herpetology. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ. 577 pp.

Zamudio, K. R. 1997. Phylogeography of the bushmaster (Lachesis muta: Viperidae): implications for neotropical biogeography, systematics, and conservation. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 62:421-442.


bushmaster fact sheet from Zoo.org

Viperidae page from the EMBL Reptile Database

& Links

Three-dimensional volumetric renderings of the skull with the hyoid and jaw removed, and of the isolated left mandible. All are less than 2mb.

Skull pitch movie

Skull roll movie

Mandible yaw movie

Mandible pitch movie

Mandible roll movie


To cite this page: The Deep Scaly Project, 2006, "Lachesis muta" (On-line), Digital Morphology. Accessed July 22, 2024 at http://digimorph.org/specimens/Lachesis_muta/.

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