Friday, November 2, 2012

Blasphemy Week: Golden Lanceheads.

Y'know how I keep saying "if you want to stop the exotic animal trade, stop humans from living there?" It turns out there is indeed a place where humans are not allowed, and that still doesn't stop people from taking venomous, hermaphroditic snakes off the island.

Wait, what?

Bothrops insularis, or the golden lancehead, is found on exactly one island in the entire world: Ilha da Queimada Grande, located off the coast of Sao Paulo, Brazil. It eats birds and lizards as an adult, and is occasionally cannibalistic. The island supposedly gets its name from a plotted banana plantation that did not go through thanks to one very obvious thing: There is at least one snake for every square meter of the place.

The golden lancehead is the only species of snake on this island. What it lacks in biodiversity it makes up for in sheer numbers. Locals say that there are 5 snakes per square meter on that island. Discovery Channel says there is really only one. The point is, everywhere you turn, there's a snake. It's amazing that good pics of this thing exist; most people would probably drop their cameras.

Think the brown tree snakes are more terrifying? Golden lanceheads are highly venomous. The snakes' closest relative is the jararaca, another lancehead whose venom's ACE inhibitors have recently been used in medicine to treat hypertension. The golden lancehead's venom is at least 5 times as potent as the jararaca's, and the fastest-acting of any lancehead. Luckily, no bites have been reported...yet.

Unless you have a deathwish or are a herpetologist, DO NOT GO HERE. (Source)

Oh, and no humans are allowed on the island. Period. The Brazilian Navy will arrest you if you are there without a waiver. The population is said to consist of exactly one human in a lighthouse and the occasional herpetologists that get waivers to go on the island. Even the natives avoid this place. There are no human settlements there except to warn people that they might land upon an island of venomous snakes. Lovely.

A lot of golden lanceheads are also intersexed. In not-so-polite terms, they're shemales, hermaphrodites, or chicks with dicks. They contain the sexual organs of both sexes, which usually results in infertility. Usually. Apparently some can breed, but regardless, this questionable sexuality is the result of extreme inbreeding.

In case you haven't guessed: Yes, these snakes are critically-endangered. The island is still farm potential, but as we all know, island ecosystems are fragile. That includes island ecosystems containing creatures of hermaphroditic, scaly death. They're terrifying, but goodness knows what'll happen if this one snake gets taken out of the great Jenga tower called nature.

And yet we somehow have photographs of these beautiful hellsnakes, as well as a few specimens in captivity. OK, fine- the reptile lover in me is showing her scales. I do, however, realize that an island full of poisonous snakes would be terrifying to most people, so there you have it. As for why it exists to begin with...either there's a holy relic there or God is a sadistic SOB.


  1. Not sure what to make of this snake that is it's attraction for humans to depopulate the snake island and repopulate their own human habitats with said self reproducing snake. The snake is pretty but as the saying goes handsome is as handsome does.

  2. It sounds like their inbreeding isn't helping. Do you know if that situation would eventually stabilize, or would it ultimately wipe out the species?

    1. Give it a thousand years, maybe. Then again, a lot of things will be gone in a thousand years at this rate.

  3. Wouldn't that many snakes eat all of their food sources? The inbreeding must have been going on for generations, how is it possible that the snake has not gone extinct?