The viper snake belongs to the Viperidae family that has more than 200 species. Except for Antarctica, Australia, north of the Arctic Circle, New Zealand, Madagascar, and some island clusters like Hawaii, species from this large family can be found all over the world. Viper snakes are present in a wide range of ecosystems, including mountains, deserts, and jungles. Because of the large venom glands found behind their eyes, the viper snake head is usually large and triangular in shape. In contrast to other snakes like cobras and mambas, they have small, stocky legs. These short, powerful bodies give them more strength to strike and ambush their prey, despite their slow appearance. The majority of vipers are camouflaged and blend in with their surroundings.
While all animals are toxic, some are more harmful than others. Unlike the venom of elapid insects, which is neurotoxic and affects the nervous system, viper venom is mainly hemotoxic, meaning it works on the blood. Vipers consume a wide range of foods, depending on their size. Tiny rodents, birds, lizards, and eggs are among the prey. Vipers use chemical signals to track their prey and then lie in wait before they can ambush it. The viper would inject venom into its prey and then release it, intending for it to die. This form of hunting protects the snake from any possible harm from the prey species. The snakes swallow their prey whole until it is dead. The majority of viper species are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. There are a few exceptions, such as the six distinct species of night adders.
Vipers come in a number of sizes, but they are both stocky and have short tails. The Mao-Lan pit viper (Protobothrops maolanensis), discovered in China in 2011, is one of the world's tiniest vipers. According to National Geographic, they are only about 2 feet (61 centimeters) long. According to the University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web, the longest viper — and the longest venomous snake in the Americas — is the South American Bushmaster (Lachesis muta), which reaches a length of more than 11 feet (335 cm).
According to Discover magazine, almost all vipers have a distinctive triangular head. The location of their large venom glands in the mouth gives them this head shape. Non Venomous animals have developed similar-looking heads to fool predators into believing they're vipers. In addition, most vipers have keeled scales, vertically elliptical eyes, and camouflage colouring and patterns.
Viper Snake Fangs
According to an article published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, vipers are known for their long, hollow, hinged, and rotatable fangs. These fangs attach to venom glands in the back upper part of the mouth, behind the eyes. When the viper bites, venom passes down the following teeth and is absorbed into the prey.
Vipers may rotate their fangs together or separately, allowing them to erect their fangs at the last possible moment. Since their mouths can open nearly 180 degrees, being able to rotate their fangs inside that room is advantageous. The hinged fangs of vipers fold up and lean against the snake's mouth roof when not in use. According to Andrew Solway, author of "Deadly Snakes," this helps their fangs to grow reasonably long.
Vipers can bite without injecting venom by spreading their fangs and biting. A dry bite is a common occurrence in human snakebites. According to an article published in the journal Tropical and Geographical Medicine, dry bites allow vipers to retain their previous venom, which can run out and take a long time to replenish.
Viper Snake Types
The details that follow are of some especially interesting vipers.
Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica)
According to the ADW, gaboon vipers are the world's biggest vipers, reaching lengths of up to 7 feet (213 cm) and weighing more than 22 lbs. (10 kilograms). Females have a much longer height than males. The Gaboon viper is heavier than the South American Bushmaster, despite being longer. Gaboon vipers are of the adder tribe, according to Savitzky, so naming them Gaboon adders is also right. They can be found in rainforests and other tropical areas throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. They spend the rest of their time hiding in the leaf litter. Gaboon vipers are known for their extraordinarily long fangs, which are the longest of any snake, according to Savitzky. The fangs of Gaboon vipers can be up to 2 inches (5 cm) long. They also have venom that is extremely potent. According to the ADW, they consume mainly small rodents, insects, and amphibians, but have also been seen eating small antelopes and giant rats.
Pit vipers belong to the Crotalinae family of vipers. According to ITIS, there are approximately 190 species. Pit vipers can be found all over the world, including the Americas, Europe, and Asia. According to The University of Pittsburgh, all vipers in the Americas are pit vipers. Rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, copperheads, lanceheads, and bushmasters are examples of pit vipers.
Because of their colour, a number of snakes are known as green vipers. The Chinese green viper (Trimeresurus stejnegeri), the green night adder (Causus resimus), the Great Lakes bush viper (Atheris nitschei), and the recently discovered ruby-eyed green pit viper (Trimeresurus stejnegeri) are among them (Cryptelytrops rubeus). Many of these snakes are from the Old World, and they can be found in Africa and Asia. Trimeresurus albolabris, also known as the green pit viper or white-lipped viper, is the most well-known of the green vipers. According to The University of Adelaide's Clinical Toxicology Services, they can be found in Southeast Asia, India, and southern China. These vivid vipers are Kelly green in colour and have bright yellow eyes. Their jaws are white or yellow, which accounts for their white-lipped nickname. A thin white line runs down the sides of the males' bodies.
Since they have horn-shaped scales on their faces, a number of snakes are known as horned vipers. The Saharan horned viper, also known as the desert horned viper, the Arabian horned viper, also known as the Middle Eastern horned viper, the horned puff adder, and the nose-horned viper have horns on the top of their heads. Each eye of the other species is covered by a horn. Except for the nose-horned viper, which lives in Europe and Asia, all horned vipers live in Africa and the Middle East. In Tanzania, a new species known as Matilda's horned viper was discovered in 2012. Depending on the species, the horns are made of single or multiple scales. Not all horned vipers have horns; the same clutch of eggs will produce both horned and non-horned vipers. When the snake is going down a burrow, the horns will bend back to be flat against the head. The role of horns is unknown. Horns, according to some scientists, break up the animal's profile, making it more difficult for predators to see. Others assume that the snake's horns shield its eyes from sand in some way. This will explain why desert snakes have horns covering their eyes.
Eyelash Pit Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii)
These small snakes, also known as the eyelash pit viper and eyelash palm pit viper, can be found in Central America and northern South America. They get their name from the bristly scales that mimic eyelashes or hoods over their eyes. According to the ADW, they are often distinguished by their vivid coloration, which includes vibrant yellows or greens (the most common coloration), pinks, purples, silver, dark grey, or brown. Their camouflage colouring helps them to blend in with banana flower bouquets. They are one of the smallest poisonous snakes in their range, measuring about 2 feet (61 cm) in length. They spend much of their time in the forest. According to t, the function of the eyelashes is unknown. According to the ADW, the function of the eyelashes is unknown. They can shield the vipers' eyes as they move through dense vegetation, according to some scientists.
The intensity of a viper bite is determined by the species and whether the bite was wet or dry, with no venom. According to Savitzky, European vipers (adders) have mild venom that is not especially lethal, whereas Gaboon vipers, which are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, have extremely potent venom. Vipers have enzymatic venom that affects a wide variety of tissues. It induces extreme swelling, discomfort, and necrosis, or the death and decay of cells. It also has anticoagulant properties. A sudden decrease in blood pressure normally results in death. Both viper bites should be handled with caution and medical attention. According to Sfetcu, viper venom helps vipers digest their food in addition to killing prey and damaging predators. Since vipers consume their prey whole, digesting it is a daunting task rendered more difficult by their digestive systems' inefficiency. During digestion, the venom breaks down lipids, acids, and proteins in the prey.
Four Subfamilies of Vipers
The viper snake is classified into four subfamilies: Azemiopinae, Causinae, Crotalinae, and Viperinae.
Azemiopinae, also known as the Fea's Viper or mountain viper, is a viper subfamily with only one genus and two species: Azemiops feae and Azemiops kharini. The appearance of these vipers is distinct from that of other vipers. Their head is elliptical in shape, with expanded scales. This genus is so distinct from the other viper snake species in appearance that it was historically classified as belonging to two separate snake families – the elapid and colubrid families. Its nearest relatives are the crotaline vipers, also known as pit vipers. It can be found in south-central China, northern Burma, and northern Vietnam's tropical mountain regions.
The Causinae subfamily contains one genus (Causus) and six endemics to Sub-Saharan Africa species. These snakes, also known as night adders, can reach lengths of 24 to 36 inches (60 – 90 cm). Night adders are oviparous, which means they lay eggs, unlike most viper snakes. The snakes lay 24 eggs at a time, which hatch four months later. While these snakes have large venom glands, they do not often inject venom into their prey while hunting. When a person is bitten by one of these snakes, the venom does not spread across the body but induces localized swelling at the bite site. A bite from a night adder has never resulted in human death.
Cottonmouth snakes, copperhead snakes, and rattlesnakes are all part of the Crotalinae family of snakes, also known as pit vipers. This subfamily includes over 150 species that can be found mostly in North and South America, as well as parts of East and Central Asia. This is the only viper snake subfamily present in the Americas. Pit vipers have a heat-sensing pit organ on either side of the head, which is situated between the eye and the nostril. Many people fear these snakes, but they seldom threaten humans and are a vital part of the food chain, consuming agricultural pests like rabbits, mice, and rats.
True vipers belong to the Viperinae subfamily, which comprises 12 genera and approximately 66 species. Snakes of this genus can be found in Africa, Asia, and Europe. The heat-sensing pit organ found in their sister family, Crotalinae, is absent in these vipers. Puff adders, common European adders, and bush vipers are all members of this family.
Viper Snake Facts
Vipers are among the most dangerous snakes.
A viper has a stocky body, a large head, and long, hinged fangs for injecting venom in the front of its mouth. The venom causes a serious and potentially lethal wound.
Vipers hunt warm-blooded prey including rats and mice, and some of them hunt during the day.
The pit vipers, for example, are usually active at night. They have two heat-sensitive pits between their eyes and mouth for sensing prey's body heat.
The majority of vipers can be found in the tropics, but some can also be found in colder climates. While most vipers give birth to live young, a few species lay eggs.
Two pit-like holes beside a pit viper's mouth, close to its eyes, contain special heat-sensitive sensors. The pit viper uses these sensors to detect warm-blooded animal prey in the field. And at night, they can tell the snake precisely where it is and how far away it is. These "heat traps" can also be found in other snake species.