If this picture sends shivers down your spine, it should. This is Bothrops asper, an aggressive and venomous pit viper that can inflict nasty, even life-threatening, bites. Rife in Costa Rica, this species is responsible for almost half of all snakebites there. But minimising the chance of being bitten by this beast, or any other snake for that matter, might be achieved by paying attention to weather patterns. According to recent research, snakebites in Costa Rica are more common in both the hot and cold phases of the El Niño Southern Oscillation – the climatic fluctuations that affect weather in the tropics. Hot weather likely makes snakes more active, while cold weather might force them to expand their search for less abundant prey, bringing them into contact with humans more often. Whatever the reason, the researchers suggest snakebites should be recognised as a health hazard sensitive to environment and climate change.
Reptile Awareness Day is celebrated annually on the 21 October.
Written by Ruth Williams
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.