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Last updated date: 16th May 2024
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What is Cerastes?

Cerastes is a family of venomous desert snakes belonging to the Viperidae family of snakes.

The horned viper (C. cerastes), which normally has a spinelike scale above each eye, and the normal, or Sahara, sand viper (C. Vipera), which does not have these scales, are the two species. Both species are small, stocky, and broad-headed, and can be found in northern Africa and the Middle East. These vipers are sand-coloured snakes with dark spots or crosswise bars on their backs. They bury themselves in the sand to avoid the sun and humidity, as well as to set up an ambush for their prey of lizards and small mammals. They fly by sidewinding, travelling obliquely through the sand, similar to other desert snakes. Their poison is weak, and humans are rarely killed by it.

Cerastes Meaning

Cerastes is a family of venomous vipers that can be found in the deserts and semi-deserts of northern North Africa, Arabia, and Iran.

ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System) currently recognizes three species, and the Reptile Database identifies an additional recently described species. Horned vipers, North African desert vipers, and cerastes vipers are also common names for members of this genus.

Cerastes are small snakes with a total length of less than 50 cm (20 inches) (body + tail), but they have a stout appearance.

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The head is long and smooth, with a distinct neck. A supraorbital horn can be present above each eye in certain species, and the head is covered with tubercularly keeled scales that are normally 15 or more across. The snout is short and high, and the eyes are small to modest in size and set far forward. The body is cylindrically depressed, short, and stout. The tail is small and abruptly tapers behind the tube. The dorsal scales are small, keeled, and arranged in 23-35 rows at midbody, with serrated keels on the oblique lateral row.

Cerastes are often referred to as horned vipers, but only the two largest species, C. cerastes (cerastes cerastes) and C. Gasperettii, have horns, and even these are not always present.

Within the same population, and also within the same waste, individuals with and without horns can be found.

Every horn is made up of a single long, spine-like scale that can be folded back into an indentation in the postocular scale when it is present. In response to direct stimuli, they fold back, streamlining the head and making passage across burrows easier. Individuals from sandy deserts have more horns than those from stony deserts. Without horns, specimens have a prominent brow ridge.

The meaning of the horns has sparked a lot of discussions.

They cause sand to accumulate above the eyes while holding it out of the eyes themselves, according to one hypothesis. Another, more common theory is that the horns help to break up the shape of the skull, making them more difficult to know for larger predators.

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Behaviour of Cerastes

This species is nocturnal and terrestrial (it is not known to climb into bushes), and it is known to hide by covering itself in the sand.

These snakes are capable of sidewinding, despite their reputation for being sluggish. They can move easily through the sand while doing so.

Cerastes species are not considered to be especially irritable ("fairly placid"), but when attacked, they will often defend themselves by forming C-shaped coils that are rubbed together to make a rasping or crackling sound, just like Echis. This is referred to as stridulation. They will strike from this place if they are irritated enough. Using their keeled, pointed, and serrated lateral scales in a rocking motion, these snakes will easily "sink" into loose sand.

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This procedure starts at the tail and progresses until the entire head is buried, leaving just the eyes and nostrils visible. They can bury themselves in this manner whether they are outstretched or coiled.

Geographic Range of Cerastes

The Sahara horned vipers are one of the most common and easily recognised venomous snakes in the North African and Middle Eastern deserts.

Cerastes cerastes is found in North Africa, as well as southwestern Arabia and southwestern Israel. It is most commonly found between Egypt and Morocco in the Sahara desert. Its range stretches from northern Mali to northern Niger, northern Chad, Sudan, and Mauritania in the south.

Although there are few records in the southern Saharan borderlands, this snake has been seen in the Sahel, the Sahara's sub-steppe zone.

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Habitat of Cerastes

C. cerastes can be found in the Sahara Desert in Northern Africa, in a range of environments such as rock hills, sandy deserts, and wadis.

Members of this genus can be seen in dunes on occasion, but they are seldom seen on rock pavement or gravel plains.

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There is a close connection between microclimate and the general distribution of this species, according to research. Saharan horned vipers prefer colder temperatures, with annual averages of 20°C or below, and can be found up to 1500 metres above sea level. When it comes to the location of these snakes, even humidity is significant.


Mating was found in captivity in April, and it always occurred while the animals were buried in the sand. This oviparous species lays 8–23 eggs, which hatch after 50–80 days of incubation. The eggs are laid in abandoned mouse burrows and under rocks. The total length of the hatchlings is 12–15 cm (approximately 5–6 inches).

Desert Snake 

The list of desert snake names is as followed,

1. Bitis

Bitis is a snake genus that includes puff adders and belongs to the venomous viper family Viperidae (e.g., Bitis arietans, see adder; the Gaboon viper, B. Gabonica; and the rhinoceros viper, B. Nasicornis).

Bitis are divided into a dozen or so species. Both are found in Africa and range in length from 30 cm to 1.8 metres (12 inches to 6 feet).

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2. Viper

Viper, (family Viperidae), any of over 200 species of venomous snakes divided into two subfamilies: pit vipers (subfamily Crotalinae) and Old World vipers (subfamily Viperinae), which some authorities consider to be distinct families. They hunt by striking and envenomating their prey and consume small mammals. Vipers have a pair of long, hollow venom-injecting fangs that are attached to movable upper jaw bones (maxillaries) and folded back in the mouth while not in use. Their scales are keeled and their eyes have vertical pupils.

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3. Sidewinder

A sidewinder, also known as a horned viper, is one of four species of small venomous snakes that live in the deserts of North America, Africa, and the Middle East. They all crawl in a "sidewinding" pattern.

A rattlesnake is a sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes). Tiny horns above each eye on this pit viper (subfamily Crotalinae) can be used to prevent sand from covering the eyes while the snake is buried. It is a nocturnal Rodentivore that lives in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico (see the Sonoran Desert). Adults are marginally taller than 50 cm (20 inches) on average but can reach 80 cm. In the fall, Sidewinders give birth to 5–18 young.

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4. Saw-Scaled Viper

Saw-scaled viper, any of eight species of small venomous snakes (family Viperidae) that live north of the Equator in arid regions and dry savannas across Africa, Arabia, and southwestern Asia to India and Sri Lanka.

A stout body with a pear-shaped head that is separate from the neck, vertically elliptical pupils, rough and heavily keeled scales, and a short slender tail distinguishes them. Several rows of obliquely spaced serrated scales cover all sides of the body. Adults are between 0.3 and 0.9 metres long (1 to 3 feet). Echis have a variety of brown, grey, or orange colouration with darker dorsal blotches and lateral spots.

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5. Desert Kingsnake

The desert kingsnake (Lampropeltis Splendida) is a kingsnake species that is found in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

It is non-venomous and is yellow and black. Rodents, lizards, and smaller reptiles, including rattlesnakes, make up the desert kingsnake's diet. They usually reach a length of 3–4 feet but have been known to reach 6.8 feet. When confronted with humans, they are docile animals. They sometimes "play dead" by rolling over onto their backs and remaining motionless if they do not attempt to flee. Ranchers and those that domesticate kingsnakes do so in the expectation that the snakes can eat other snakes that present a greater threat.

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6. Schokari Sand Racer

The Schokari sand racer (Psammophis schokari) is a lamprophiid snake that can be found in Asia and Africa.

Psammophis schokari aegyptius has been given the status of the genus. [requires citation] Many people refer to snakes in the genus Psammophis as colubrids, but this is incorrect—they were once classified in the Colubridae, but herpetologists have reclassified Psammophis and its relatives into the Lamprophiidae, a family more closely related to Elapidae than to Colubridae, due to a better understanding of the relationships within snake families.

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7. Vipera

Vipera is a venomous viper family.

It can be found from North Africa to just beyond the Arctic Circle, and from the United Kingdom to Pacific Asia. The Latin name vpera is thought to be derived from the Latin words vivus and pario, which mean "alive" and "bear" or "put forth," respectively; this is most certainly a nod to the fact that most vipers give birth to live young. There are currently 21 species recognised.

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8. Egyptian Cobra

The Egyptian cobra is a huge snake. The head is broad and depressed, with a small distinction between it and the body. Like all other cobras, this species' neck has long cervical ribs that can extend to form a hood. The Egyptian cobra's snout is relatively long and rounded. The pupil is round and the eye is very broad. The Egyptian cobra has a cylindrical, stout body and a long tail. The Egyptian cobra's length is primarily determined by subspecies, geographical location, and population. This species' most distinguishing features are the head and hood.

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10. Cerastes Gasperettii

The Arabian horned viper, Cerastes Gasperettii, is a venomous viper species occurring mostly in the Arabian Peninsula and north to Israel, Iraq, and Iran.

While it resembles C. cerastes in morphology, the geographic ranges of these two species do not overlap. There are no accepted subspecies of C. Gasperettii.

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Cerastes is a family of venomous desert snakes belonging to the Viperidae family of snakes. The horned viper (C. cerastes) normally has a spinelike scale above each eye, and the normal, or Sahara, sand viper does not. Both species are small (rarely exceeding 60 cm [about 2 feet] in length) and can be found in northern Africa and the Middle East. These vipers are sand-coloured snakes with dark spots or crosswise bars on their backs. They bury themselves in the sand to avoid the sun and humidity, as well as to set up an ambush for their prey.

FAQs on Cerastes

1. Can a Horned Viper Kill You?

Answer: Some encounters with humans can be dangerous because they are venomous snakes. However, owing to the dangerous conditions in which the horned viper lives, human contact with these animals are uncommon, and most bites are not lethal. The venom of the desert horned viper is a cytotoxin that strikes and destroys cell walls, but it is much less poisonous to humans than the venom of many other snakes in the same region. As a result, locals in and around several villages (but not all) have come to accept this snake as a largely harmless rodent-control agent.

2. What is the Deadliest Snake in the World?

Answer: Saw-scaled viper is the deadliest snake in the world. The saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus) is thought to be the worst of all reptiles, with more human fatalities than all other snake species combined, according to scientists. The snake's venom, on the other hand, is only fatal in around 10% of untreated patients, but because of its aggressiveness, it attacks early and frequently.

3. Why Does Ireland Have No Snakes?

Answer: Since Ireland was connected to mainland Europe when it slowly came to the surface, snakes were able to find their way onto the island. However, the Ice Age began around three million years ago, and since snakes are cold-blooded animals, they were no longer able to survive. As a result, Ireland's snakes became feral.

4. What is the Most Dangerous Snake in the World?

Answer: Inland Taipan is the most dangerous snake in the world. The inland taipan is aptly recognized as 'the fierce serpent,' as it is widely considered as the world's most venomous snake. Its paralyzing poison, taipoxin, is a mixture of neurotoxins, procoagulants, and myotoxins that triggers hemorrhaging of blood vessels and muscle tissue, as well as inhibiting breathing.