Monday, April 2, 2007


Snakes of the world – Part 4.

Large Scaled Green Pit Viper - Image courtsey: Shibu Bhaskar

Family. Viperidae; two sub-families 1. Viperinae 2. Crotalinae.

Of all the poisonous snakes Vipers possess the most peculiar characters. The prominent viviparous nature is just one thing, they possess the biggest fangs with advanced features as they can be raised for use and lowered after use as they are fixed on a vertically movable maxillary bone. In evolutionary status Vipers are ahead of its peers. Viper posses the widest range of snakes with varying life style, shapes, size and habits.

Horned viper Image courtsey:

The smallest poisonous snake is a Viper family member- the Perunguey’s adder (Bitis peringueyi) of Africa. The North-African Horned Viper known as the Asp (Cerates cornulus) is the Villain responsible for the death of queen Cleopatra thereby gaining a place in the world history (Cleopatra committed suicide by putting her finger in to a pot that contained a Horned Viper which acted as expected by her and bit her to death).

Cleopatra Image courtsey:

The pit vipers (A sub-family with four genera Agkistrodon, Lachesis, Sistrurus, and Crotalus), they posses a deep pit adjacent to their nose and hence the name (it may be taken as they live in pits!). These pits have sensory apparatus to understand the atmospheric temperature. The Common Viper (Vipera berus) bear a “v” shaped mark on the back of the head. Vipers are of interest as they are the only poisonous snakes in Britain. During winter they go on hibernation and awake during the beginning of the March. Water moccasin (A. piscivorous) and A. Copperhead (A. controtrix) belong to the genus Agkistrodon.

Vipers are mostly viviparous only few varieties lay eggs. They are capable of hissing by storing air in their stomach and ejecting it out thereby making frightening sound, these hissing continue for a long time and is loud enough to be heard at long distances, unlike that of cobra which is of short duration. Males are generally pale colored and females sport dark brown or reddish brown colors.

Sacred Viper (Lachesis purpuriomaculatus) they are natives of south eastern Asia and worshiped by the local people. These snakes adorn the temple of Penang in huge numbers and they are looked after by the temple priests.

Copper head viper - Image courtsey:

6b. Pit Vipers (Sub-family Crotalinae) they are represented by four genera Agkistrodon, Lachesis, Sistrurus, and Crotalus. The snake by name “copper head” (A. piscivorous) is yellowish with beautiful brown bars. It is mostly aquatic in nature and feed on fish, frogs small animals like rats and even smaller snakes.

6c. Russel’s viper (Viper russelii)

Russels viper Image courtsey: Sinu Kumar

Found in Indian sub-continent. It is either pale or grey in color with numerous rings. Russell’s viper is one of the most venomous snakes in the world.

Rattle Snakes belong to the Genera Crotalus the skin of these snakes consist of a number of shields the rattle is produced by shaking the scales when they are frightened or disturbed. They live on rocky areas and feed mainly on rodents. The genera sistrulus live in swampy areas.

Snakes of the World - Part 1

Snakes of the World Part – 2. - Evolution in Snakes

Snakes of the World Part - 3. - Cobra

Snakes of the World Part - 4. - Viper

Snakes of the World Part - 5. - King Cobra

To be continued...


Makoy said...

thank you for visiting my site! nice blog site!

Unknown said...

can someone help me in identifying all the non-venomous snake species found in kerala with respective pictures and their local & english names.
Info would be very useful in breaking folklore and myths highly prevalent as regards classification of non-venomous snakes into venomous category.