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Rattlesnake, Lance-headed

Mexican Lanceheaded Rattlesnake at the LA Zoo LAIR Photo Credit Tad Motoyama

Scientific Name: Crotalus polystictus

All pit-vipers, the family that contains the rattlesnake genus, use both their eyes as well as heat-sensing pits on the sides of their face to detect a thermal signature from nearby prey. Its species name polystictus comes from the Greek words poly meaning “many” and sticto meaning “spotted.”

Difficult to Classify, Harder to Save

Since the species was first discovered, taxonomists have argued over its classification due to a lack of specimens and its unique design not common to most rattlesnakes. This species of rattlesnake is one of the most unique species and is a much sought after guest for any zoo, however it suffers from the same problem as any other animal in the modern world: destruction of its natural habitat.

Because this species lives in one of the most agricultural regions of Mexico, its natural habitat is quickly being destroyed to make room for more fields to feed an ever-growing human population. In 2002, the Snake Taxon Advisory Group began a plan to help control the population of C. polystictus, which has been dwindling and becoming decreasing in range in recent years. Through increased research of this species and the increased dedication of conservationists around the world, the Mexican lance-headed rattlesnake population is slowly climbing and its extant will increase with every passing year.

As of 2007, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed this species as of Least Concern.

This species makes its home in the valleys and grasslands on the plateaus of central Mexico, using nearby rocks to hide from any humans in its natural habitat.

The meal of the lance-headed rattlesnake typically consists of amphibians and other reptiles but is also known to include small insects and rodents.

The lance-headed rattlesnake is a medium-sized venomous pit-viper ranging in length from 25 to 32 inches with males being considerably larger than females as adults. Their bodies are typically light brown to tannish-white in color, usually with multiple blotches of a dark brown throughout. Other than the typical crossbands of rattlesnakes, the lance-headed rattlesnake has numerous dark spots on its body that slowly become more of a rectangle shape as they progress down the body.

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