Published October 2, 2020. Open access.

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Lojan Lancehead (Bothrops lojanus)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Serpentes | Viperidae | Bothrops lojanus

English common name: Lojan Lancehead.

Spanish common names: Macanchi, macaucho.

Recognition: ♂♂ 61.1 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. ♀♀ 59 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail.. The Lojan Lancehead (Bothrops lojanus) can be identified by having a triangular-shaped head, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, and a series of butterfly-shaped dark blotches on a brownish dorsum (Fig. 1).1 In Ecuador, the only other viper that may be found living alongside B. lojanus is an undescribed species of the B. asper complex, a bigger snake having a distinctive pattern of X-shaped dorsal markings.1

Variation among individuals of Bothrops lojanus

Figure 1: Individuals of Bothrops lojanus from Las Nieves, Azuay province, Ecuador (); Filo de Taqui, Azuay province, Ecuador (); Cristal, Loja province, Ecuador (); and Guanazán, El Oro province, Ecuador (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: UncommonUnlikely to be seen more than once every few months.. Bothrops lojanus is a terrestrial snake that inhabits humid to dry montane shrublands, highland grasslands, herbaceous paramos, evergreen montane forests, and areas having a matrix of pastures, plantations, rural gardens, and remnants of native vegetation.13 The species tends to avoid areas lacking vegetation cover such as towns or mechanized farmlands.4

Lojan Lanceheads are typically active throughout the day, between 7:30 am to 7:00 pm, although they may remain active until 10:00 pm during warmer nights.5,6 They spend most of their time coiled among grasses, ferns, herbaceous vegetation, on leaf-litter, or among sigsales, which are tall dense tussocks of Cortadeira sp. grass.3,4,7 They are also occasionally seen moving at ground level, on leaf-litter, among vegetation, or crossing roads and trails.8,9 When not active, individuals of Bothrops lojanus hide under agave plants, in vegetation, or inside crevices in the ground.9 One juvenile was seen perched on leaves 50 cm above the ground at night.9 One individual was perched on a Puya sp. plant 60 cm above the ground during the day.10

Lojan Lanceheads are ambush predators. Their diet includes rodents11 and lizards such as Macropholidus annectens3 and Stenocercus simonsii.12 Individuals of Bothrops lojanus rely on their camouflage as a primary defense mechanism. When threatened, some individuals give a “warning” by vigorously wiggling their tail against the soil whereas others just readily attack.1 Bothrops lojanus is a venomous species, but no reported cases of human envenomation exist.

What to do if you are bitten by a Lojan Lancehead?

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Remove rings and tight fitting clothes to avoid swelling.
  3. Reduce movement of bitten extremity to reduce absorption of venom.
  4. Avoid the application of tourniquets, electric shocks, traditional medicine, venom suction, and incision of the bite wound.
  5. Plan immediate evacuation to a medical facility that has antivenom and avoid any action that may delay transportation.
  6. At the medical facility, personnel can initiate treatment with the appropriate antivenom, monitor vital signs, and perform laboratory tests.

Gravid females of Bothrops lojanus have been found to contain 6–9 embryos, but no instances of live birth have been reported.1,13 Under human care, individuals can live up to ~5 years,1 and probably much longer.

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Conservation: Endangered Considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the near future.. Bothrops lojanus is listed in this category because the species has a limited geographic distribution (estimated to be no greater than ~3,468 km2 since records from Peru may belong to a different species) and its habitat is rapidly declining in extent and quality mostly due to encroaching human activities such as agriculture and cattle ranching.2,14 In Ecuador, ~54.4% of the native habitat of B. lojanus has already been destroyed. In addition to habitat loss, the species faces the threat of traffic mortality8 and human persecution. Local residents kill individuals of B. lojanus to remove the fat bodies of the snake and use them as treatment of muscular and respiratory diseases.1

Distribution: Bothrops lojanus is native to the inter-Andean valleys and both slopes of the Andes in southern Ecuador and northern Peru.2 In Ecuador, the species occurs over an estimated ~3,468 km2 area at elevations between 2008 and 2748 m (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Bothrops lojanus in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Bothrops lojanus in Ecuador. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Bothrops, which is derived from the Greek word bothros (meaning “pit”),15 refers to the heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils. The specific epithet lojanus is a reference to Loja, the city in southern Ecuador around which the species was originally found.16

See it in the wild: Lojan Lanceheads are recorded rarely, usually no more than once every few months at any given locality. However, there are some areas, like on the hills surrounding Loja city, Loja province, and in the vicinity of the towns Nabón and Oña, Azuay province, where individuals are seen more frequently. The snakes may be spotted as they cross trails and roads in areas of highland shrubland, especially during the early morning or around sunset.

Acknowledgments: Special thanks to Carlos Rodríguez, Daniel Hualpa, David Salazar, Diego Armijos, Ernesto Arbeláez, Jorge Luis Romero, Pablo Loaiza, and Santiago Hualpa for providing locality data and natural history information for Bothrops lojanus.

Special thanks to Toa Loaiza Lange for symbolically adopting the Lojan Lancehead and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

Click here to adopt a species.

Author: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

Photographers: Jose VieiraaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2020) Lojan Lancehead (Bothrops lojanus). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/UAFM3822

Literature cited:

  1. Valencia JH, Garzón-Tello K, Barragán-Paladines ME (2016) Serpientes venenosas del Ecuador: sistemática, taxonomía, historial natural, conservación, envenenamiento y aspectos antropológicos. Fundación Herpetológica Gustavo Orcés, Quito, 653 pp.
  2. Salazar-Valenzuela D (2016) Diversification in the Neotropics: insights from demographic and phylogenetic patterns of lancehead pitvipers (Bothrops spp.). PhD thesis, The Ohio State University, 164 pp.
  3. Kuch U, Ayala-Varela F (2004) Bothrops lojanus (Lojan Lancehead). Diet. Herpetological Review 35: 274.
  4. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  5. Pablo Loaiza-Lange, pers. comm.
  6. Jorge Luis Romero, pers. comm.
  7. Daniel Hualpa, pers. comm.
  8. Diego Armijos, pers. comm.
  9. Santiago Hualpa, pers. comm.
  10. Field notes of Amalia Espinoza.
  11. Darwin Núñez, pers. comm.
  12. Field notes of Jorge Luis Romero.
  13. Ernesto Arbeláez, pers. comm.
  14. Cisneros-Heredia DF (2019) Bothrops lojanus. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T174144A54445329.en
  15. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
  16. Campbell JA, Lamar WW (2004) The venomous reptiles of the western hemisphere. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 774 pp.

Appendix 1: Locality data used to create the distribution map of Bothrops lojanus in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used.

EcuadorAzuayChacalataJorge Luis Romero, pers. comm.
EcuadorAzuayEl TablónJorge Luis Romero, pers. comm.
EcuadorAzuayFilo de TaquiThis work
EcuadorAzuayGulagDavid Salazar, pers. comm.
EcuadorAzuayLa MercedJorge Luis Romero, pers. comm.
EcuadorAzuayLa NubeThis work
EcuadorAzuayLas NievesThis work
EcuadorAzuayNabónThis work
EcuadorAzuayShurucpambaJorge Luis Romero, pers. comm.
EcuadorAzuaySusudelJorge Luis Romero, pers. comm.
EcuadorAzuayVía a PoetateThis work
EcuadorAzuayZona alta de PoetateJorge Luis Romero, pers. comm.
EcuadorEl OroChillaValencia et al. 2016
EcuadorEl OroGuanazánThis work
EcuadorLoja3 km E LojaValencia et al. 2016
EcuadorLoja3 km N LojaValencia et al. 2016
EcuadorLoja30 km N CelicaJorge Castillo, pers. comm.
EcuadorLoja5 km Loja–CuencaSalazar-Valenzuela 2016
EcuadorLojaCelicaErnesto Arbeláez, pers. comm.
EcuadorLojaChuquiribambaPhoto record by Rita Hidalgo
EcuadorLojaFinca de Gustavo SamaniegoThis work
EcuadorLojakm 2 vía a YanacochaValencia et al. 2016
EcuadorLojakm 42 vía Loja–SaraguroValencia et al. 2016
EcuadorLojakm 5 Loja–ZamoraValencia et al. 2016
EcuadorLojaLa PapayaThis work
EcuadorLojaLa PraderaValencia et al. 2016
EcuadorLojaLa TeneríaValencia et al. 2016
EcuadorLojaLojaValencia et al. 2016
EcuadorLojaMadrigal del PodocarpusiNaturalist
EcuadorLojaMadrigal del Podocarpus, páramoSantiago Hualpa, pers. comm.
EcuadorLojaMountains above VilcabambaDiego Armijos, pers. comm.
EcuadorLojaParque UniversitarioPhoto record by Jorge Correa
EcuadorLojaPotrerillosPhoto record by Ernesto Arbeláez
EcuadorLojaPunzaraDaniel Hualpa, pers. comm.
EcuadorLojaSan LucasSalazar-Valenzuela 2016
EcuadorLojaSan Lucas–LojaSalazar-Valenzuela 2016
EcuadorLojaSaraguroKuch & Ayala 2004
EcuadorLojaVillonacoValencia et al. 2016
EcuadorLojaYangana–Cerro ToledoSalazar-Valenzuela 2016
EcuadorLojaYangana–Tapichalaca 1Diego Armijos, pers. comm.
EcuadorLojaYangana–Tapichalaca 2Diego Armijos, pers. comm.
EcuadorLojaZamora HuyacoValencia et al. 2016
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeEstación San Francisco, lomasCarlos Rodríguez, pers. comm.
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeSabanillaiNaturalist
PeruCajamarcaYauyucanCarrasco et al. 2016