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What is a Yarara?

S. Ashraf
S. Ashraf

A yarara, scientifically named Bothrops jararaca, is a medium-sized venomous species of pit viper. A mature yarara is fairly slender and measures about 32-63 inches (80-160 cm) in length, with the female usually somewhat longer than the male. In appearance, individual snakes of this species can differ significantly from each other because of the variety of skin tones that these snakes can have. Skin colors come in shades of olive, maroon, yellow, tan, brown or gray. Yararas do share certain physical characteristics, such as dark blotches that come in a variety of shapes and sizes on their backs and pronounced dark-brown stripes on the head that run in an angle from the mouth to just behind the eyes.

Geographically, the yarara has a limited distribution. This snake is found only in the southeastern region of South America, roughly from northern Argentina, through Paraguay to southern Brazil. Yararas are also found on a few islands that are about 20 miles (35 km) off the coast of Brazil. The yarara is regarded as the most poisonous snake within the area it inhabits. It is abundant, and many of the areas it inhabits are densely populated, so it is the leading cause of snakebite in the region.

Young yarara will eat centipedes.
Young yarara will eat centipedes.

For habitat, the yarara prefers to live in open areas where vegetation cover is near. Most often, it is found at low to medium elevations from about sea level to about 3,280 feet (1,000 m). Within its range, the yarara has adapted to a variety of habitats and is found not only in open areas but also in large cities, cultivated fields, scrubs and various types of forests.

A yarara may prey on frogs.
A yarara may prey on frogs.

The diet of this snake changes as it matures. When newly born, a yarara mainly preys on frogs but will also eat insects such as centipedes, lizards, birds and some small rodents. An adult snake of this species, however, gets more than 80 percent of its food from rodents. Yararas hunt at night and bite the prey to inject venom before eating it.

Breeding season ends in February and March when births occur. Its eggs are not laid in a nest but grow inside of the mother, where they also hatch so that the babies are actually born alive. Scientists estimate that the size of litters varies from about five to 22. The tail tips of newborns are white or yellowish. As the diet of the newborn changes to consuming warm-blooded animals, the tail tip darkens and takes on the colors of the rest of its body.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Yarará and where can it be found?

In the Americas, pit vipers account for the majority of human deaths that result from a snake bite.
In the Americas, pit vipers account for the majority of human deaths that result from a snake bite.

A Yarará is a type of venomous pit viper native to South America. These snakes are primarily found in Argentina, southern Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay. They inhabit diverse environments, from dry scrublands to moist forests, and are known for their distinctive heat-sensing pits, which they use to detect prey.

How dangerous is the venom of a Yarará?

The venom of a Yarará can be quite dangerous to humans, causing severe pain, swelling, and tissue damage. However, fatalities are rare if proper medical treatment is received promptly. Antivenom is effective in neutralizing the venom, and it's crucial to seek immediate medical attention if bitten.

What does a Yarará look like?

A Yarará typically has a brown or grayish background color with darker crossbands, which allows it to blend into its surroundings. They have a triangular-shaped head, which is wider than their neck, and their body is stout with keeled scales. Adult Yararás can reach lengths of up to 1.5 meters, though most are smaller.

What do Yararás eat?

Yararás are carnivorous and primarily feed on small mammals, such as rodents, which they hunt using their heat-sensing pits to detect warm-blooded prey. They may also consume birds, lizards, and amphibians. Their hunting strategy involves lying in wait to ambush prey, delivering a venomous bite to subdue it.

How does the Yarará reproduce?

Yararás are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young rather than laying eggs. Females gestate the eggs internally and give birth to fully formed offspring. A single litter can consist of 4 to 25 young, which are independent from birth and receive no parental care.

Is the Yarará population at risk?

The Yarará population is not currently classified as at risk; however, like many wildlife species, they face threats from habitat destruction and human encroachment. Conservation efforts are important to maintain their populations, as they play a vital role in controlling rodent populations and thus the ecosystem balance.

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    • Young yarara will eat centipedes.
      By: evegenesis
      Young yarara will eat centipedes.
    • A yarara may prey on frogs.
      A yarara may prey on frogs.
    • In the Americas, pit vipers account for the majority of human deaths that result from a snake bite.
      By: Remus Moise
      In the Americas, pit vipers account for the majority of human deaths that result from a snake bite.