A boomslang (Dispholidus typus) is a relatively small, venomous colubrid snake native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is currently the only species in its genus, although several species and subspecies have been described in the past. Its name means "tree snake" in Afrikaans and Dutch (boom meaning "tree" (a cognate of "beam", which means a long and large piece of wood, generally a support in a building), and slang meaning "snake"). In Afrikaans, the name is pronounced Template:IPA-nl. The snake is thought to be closely related to members of the genera Thelotornis, Thrasops, Rhamnophis, and Xyelodontophis, with which it forms the taxonomic tribe Dispholidini.
Boomslangs are oviparous. The eggs have a relatively long (3 months on average) incubation period. Hatchlings are greyish with blue speckles. They attain their adult coloration after several years.
Behavior and diet Edit
Boomslangs are diurnal and largely arboreal. Their diet includes chameleons and other arboreal lizards, frogs, and occasionally small mammals, birds, and eggs from nesting birds, all of which they swallow whole. During cool weather, they will hibernate for moderate periods, often curling up inside the enclosed nests of birds such as weavers.
Many venomous members of the family Colubridae are harmless to humans because of small venom glands, weak venom, or inefficient fangs. However, the boomslang is a notable exception in that it has a highly potent venom, which it delivers through large fangs that are located in the rear of the jaw. Boomslangs may open their jaws 90 degrees when biting. The venom of the boomslang is primarily a hemotoxin; it disables the blood clotting process and the victim may well die as a result of internal and external bleeding. Other signs and symptoms include headache, nausea, sleepiness and mental disorders.
Because the venom is slow to act, symptoms may not be manifest until many hours after the bite. On one hand, this provides time for procuring the antivenom, while on the other it may lead victims to underestimate the seriousness of the bite. Snakes of any species may sometimes fail to inject venom when they bite, so after a few hours without any noticeable effects, victims of boomslang bites may believe (wrongly) their injury is not serious.
In 1957, well-known herpetologist Karl Schmidt died after being bitten by a boomslang. D.S. Chapman states that between 1919 and 1962 there were eight serious human envenomations by boomslangs, two of which were fatal. The South African Vaccine Producers (formerly South African Institute of Medical Research) manufactures a monovalent antivenin for use in boomslang envenomations.
The boomslang is a timid snake, and bites generally occur only when people attempt to handle, catch or kill the animal. The above data suggest boomslangs are unlikely to be a significant source of human fatalities throughout their distribution range.
In popular culture Edit
- Shredded skin of a boomslang is one of the ingredients to make the Polyjuice Potion in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
- The venom of the boomslang also features in the Agatha Christie thriller, Death in the Clouds (pub.1935), featuring her famous detective, Hercule Poirot.
- In Stephen King's short story, "Autopsy Room Four", the main character is bitten by a fictional snake called a "Peruvian boomslang". King says he got the name from Death in the Clouds, mentioned above.
- A distillation of boomslang venom is combined with dimethyl sulfoxide to create a contact poison that is the murder weapon in an episode of Quincy, ME.
- A character named Boomslang is a Marvel Comics supervillain.
- In A King's Trade by Dewey Lambdin, one of Captain Alan Lewrie's black sailors runs away while anchored in South Africa and is killed by a boomslang.
- A popular jungle, dub-step and drum and bass night is hosted at the Junction, CambridgeTemplate:Clarify.
- Boomslang is the title of a 2003 album by former Smiths guitarist and songwriter Johnny Marr, credited to Johnny Marr and the Healers.
- A computer mouse named after the snake, also called the Boomslang, is manufactured by the Razer Company, Ltd.
Template:Commons categoryaf:Boomslang bg:Бумсланг de:Boomslang es:Dispholidus typus fr:Dispholidus typus it:Dispholidus typus nl:Boomslang ja:ブームスラング no:Boomslange pl:Dysfolid simple:Boomslang fi:Boomslang sv:Boomslang tr:Dispholidus typus uk:Бумсланг zh:非洲樹蛇