If we take on the global scale, the viper is far from the most dangerous poisonous snake, not with the same Asian cobras, not to mention the American rattlesnakes, which have an instantaneous reaction and deadly poison, an unsuccessful meeting with which has a very high chance of becoming the last . But, nevertheless, among the reptiles living in our latitudes, it is the viper that is the most dangerous. Speaking of the name of this snake, the word “viper” is rooted in deep antiquity and comes literally from the word “reptile”, which means disgusting animals, which is the heroine of our today’s article.
Viper: description, structure, characteristics. What does a viper look like?
Many vipers have a short and thick body. The maximum length of the viper reaches 3-4 meters, while small snakes can be 30 cm long. The weight of an adult large viper is about 15-17 kg.
All types of vipers also have a flattened, rounded triangular skull shape with prominent temporal protrusions. At the tip of the muzzle of some species of this snake there are single or paired formations – so called modified scales.
The eyes of the viper are small, have vertical pupils that can narrow and expand, filling the entire eye. Due to this, the vipers can see at night, as well as during the daytime, in general, the vision of these snakes is well developed.
The color of the viper can take on a wide variety of colors, depending on its appearance. Also on her body can be a variety of simple patterns. But in any case, the colors of the viper depend on the place of its stay and are designed to merge with the surrounding space as much as possible.
All vipers, however, like other venomous snakes, have a pair of well-developed canines, which are also devices for the release of poison. The latter is formed in the poisonous glands that are located behind the upper jaw of the snake. Viper’s teeth can be up to 4 cm in length. With the mouth closed, they fold and become covered with a special film cloth.
During an attack or defense, the mouth of the snake opens at an angle of 180 degrees, the jaw rotates, the canines are pulled forward. When the viper’s jaws close, there is a sharp contraction of the strong muscles surrounding the poisonous glands, as a result of which the venom is released, which is more like a blow than a bite.
What do vipers eat in nature?
The Viper is a notorious predator, also leading a nocturnal lifestyle. These snakes prefer to attack their prey from ambush, biting it with their poisonous fangs with a rapid throw, the victim dies from poison for a few minutes, then the viper starts its meal, usually swallowing the prey whole.
The main menu of the viper is a variety of small rodents, lizards, marsh frogs, some birds. Small vipers feed on large bugs, locusts, can catch caterpillars and butterflies.
Natural enemies of vipers
There are vipers and their enemies, who, despite the presence of poisonous fangs, not averse to enjoy this snake. Among them are foxes, ferrets, badgers, wild boars (surprisingly, the viper venom does not act on the word at all), as well as a number of birds of prey: owls, herons, storks and eagles. And still, hedgehogs can be attributed to the adversary’s enemies, although they don’t feed on them, they often fight with these reptiles, from which they usually emerge victorious.
How much does a viper live
Usually, the average life of a viper in nature is 15 years, but some specimens can live up to 30 years.
Where the adder lives
In fact, vipers live not only in our latitudes but also over a much wider geographic area, they can be found in almost any climatic conditions and landscapes: Europe, Asia, Africa, both Americas, Australia and New Zealand.
Typically, these snakes are sedentary, only occasionally making forced migrations to wintering grounds. Vipers spend most of their time basking in the sun or hiding under stones.
Where and how do vipers winter
About wintering the viper begin to worry since October-November. For the “winter apartments”, holes are searched that go up to 2 m to the ground, so that the positive temperature inside remains. If there are a lot of vipers in this area, many individuals can winter in one such hole. In March-April, when the spring sun begins to warm, the vipers emerge from their winter shelters and start breeding.
Poison Viper – bite effects and symptoms
The venom of the viper is not as potent as that of a cobra or a rattlesnake, but in some cases it can be fatal to humans. Therefore, it would not be superfluous to remind once again that from the viper, however, as in general, from all poisonous snakes should stay away.
On the other hand, the poison of the viper has found its application for medical purposes, a whole range of drugs are made from it, and it is used in the production of cosmetics. According to its chemical structure, the venom’s poison consists of proteins, lipids, peptides, amino acids and salts and inorganic sugars. Preparations from it, help as a painkiller for neuralgia, rheumatism, hypertension, skin diseases.
In the human body, the venom of a viper, when bitten, enters through the lymph nodes and from there it instantly enters the blood. Symptoms of a viper bite: burning pain, redness and swelling around the bite site, as the effects of intoxication will be dizziness, nausea, chills, heart palpitations. Needless to say, if you are bitten by a viper, you should immediately seek professional medical assistance.
Viper bite – first aid
What to do if a viper bit, while being bitten away from civilization (and this happens most often), somewhere in the mountains-forests:
- First of all, it is necessary to provide rest for the bitten place, fixing it with a likeness of a lanyard, or tying up a bent arm with a handkerchief. After the bite, it is very undesirable to actively move in order to avoid the rapid spread of poison through the body.
- Pressing your finger in the bite you need to try to open the wound and suck the poison. This can be done by mouth, then spitting saliva, but only if there is no damage in the mouth: cracks, scratches, otherwise the poison and through the mouth can get into the blood. Suction poison must be continuously for 15-20 minutes.
- After this, the bite site must be disinfected with any improvised means, it may be vodka, alcohol, cologne, iodine, and apply a clean and slightly pressure bandage on it.
- It is advisable to drink as much as possible liquids, water, weak tea, but in no case coffee, and even more so nothing alcoholic.
- At the first opportunity it is imperative to seek qualified medical assistance from a doctor.
What is different too from the viper
Very often vipers are confused with other snakes, for example, with a completely harmless snake, which is not surprising, because both snakes are very similar, they have a similar color, live in the same places. And yet between them there are a number of differences, about which we will write further:
- Despite the similar color, the appearance of these snakes has one significant difference – there are two yellow or orange spots on the head, and they are absent from the viper.
- There is also a difference in the stains of scales, the snakes have a staggered pattern, while the vipers have a zigzag strip on the back, which runs along the whole body.
- The eyes of the snake and the viper are different, the viper has a vertical pupil, and the snakes are round.
- Perhaps the most important difference is the presence of poisonous fangs in the viper, which the snake simply does not have.
- Usually it is longer than the viper, although a large viper can be caught that is longer than a small snake.
- The tail of the snake is longer and thin, while the tail of the viper is short and thick.
Types of vipers, photo and names
In nature, zoologists counted more than 250 species of vipers, but we will focus on the most interesting of them.
The most common of the vipers that lives in a wide geographical area, including in our country, so that when going hiking in the Carpathian mountains or simply gathering mushrooms in the forest, you should carefully look at your feet in order not to accidentally step on this snake. The common viper usually has 60-70 cm. Length and weighs from 50 to 180 grams. In this case, females, as a rule, are more males. The color of vipers can be different: black, light gray, yellow-brown, depending on the place of its residence.
A characteristic feature of this adder is the presence of scaly outgrowth at the tip of the muzzle, very similar to the nose. The length of this viper is 60-70 cm, body color is gray, sandy, or red-brown. This species of vipers lives in the south of Europe and in Asia Minor: in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Georgia.
It dwells in the steppes of southern and southeastern Europe, and is also found on the territory of our Ukraine. The length of this snake is 64 cm, the color is gray-brown, a zigzag strip passes along the back of the steppe viper.
A characteristic feature of this type of vipers is the small horns located above the eyes of the snake. It has 60-80 cm. Length, the body of its creamy-green color is dotted with small dark brown specks. Horned keffiyeh lives in southeast Asia, particularly in China, India, and Indonesia.
She is a Burmese viper-fairy, got her second name thanks to the zoologist Leonard Fea, who was studying it. Lives in Asia, China, Tibet, Burma, Vietnam. The length of this viper is 80 cm. On the head it has large shields, the body is gray-brown in color with yellow stripes, and the head is completely yellow.
This is probably the most dangerous viper in the world, biting it in 4 out of 5 cases leads to a fatal accident. But fortunately in our area the noisy viper does not inhabit, it lives exclusively in Africa and in the south of the Arabian Peninsula. It has a golden yellow or dark beige color, along the body there is a pattern in the shape of the Latin letter U.
This type of vipers has a special decoration on the face in the form of vertically protruding scales. The thick body of this snake can reach up to 1.2 m in length, besides it is covered with very beautiful patterns. Inhabits the humid forests of equatorial Africa.
Labaria or kaisaya
One of the biggest vipers, its length can reach up to 2.5 m. It has a lemon-yellow color, thanks to which it is also called a “yellow beard”. This viper lives in South America.
She, the Levant Viper, is also one of the most dangerous vipers, its poison in its toxicity is inferior only to the poison of the cobra. It is also a very large snake, the length of its body can reach up to 2 m and weigh up to 3 kg. Body color is usually gray-brown. Gurza lives in Asia and North Africa.
Dwarf African Viper
It is the smallest adder in the world, and in view of its size it is relatively non-hazardous, although, of course, its bite can cause unpleasant consequences. The length of the dwarf viper does not exceed 25 cm. It lives in central Africa.
Bushmaster or surakuku
But on the contrary, the biggest adder in the world, the length of its body can be up to 4 m and weight up to 5 kg. It lives in tropical rain forests of Central America.
How vipers breed
Vipers breeding usually begins in March-May, with the onset of spring heat in these snakes the mating season begins. Viper eggs form in the womb of a female, and small snakes hatch in the same place, which come out into the light either at the end of summer or at the beginning of autumn. One medium sized viper usually gives birth to 8-12 cubs.
The process of birth of new reptiles occurs in an interesting way: a pregnant female twins her tail by the trunk of a tree, while keeping the tail on weight and simply scatters her young, by the way, fully formed and ready for independent living. The length of newborn snakes is 10-12 cm, they immediately molt, and further molt and they occur 1-2 times a month.
Interesting facts about the viper
- In some nations, vipers are even venerated sacred, such as temple keffias on Penang island. They are specially brought to the serpent temple, hung on the trees. Locals consider the vipers to be homemakers.
- Dried meat of the viper-shtomomordnika is in demand among Chinese and Japanese gourmets. It is also used in folk healing.
And at the end of an interesting documentary from the channel Net Geo Wild about vipers.