Different Types of Viper Snakes Explained

Types of Viper Snakes
Photo byJoran Quinten on Unsplash

There are numerous types of viper snakes around the globe, and it is essential to be familiar with them all. This article will cover the various viper species you should be aware of.

Because all types of viper snakes possess a one-of-a-kind combination of traits, getting as much information as possible about them before going on your next snake hunt is essential.

There are more than 200 different species of poisonous snakes within the family Viperidae. Vipers usually have long, hinged fangs that protrude from their mouths. These fangs can deliver a significant amount of venom with just one bite.

All types of viper snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica, and they can range in size and shape from extremely little to very large.

There Are Four Separate Subfamilies of Vipers Within the Viperidae Family

  • Azemiopinae, collectively known as Fea’s vipers.
  • Causinae, collectively known as night adders.
  • Crotalinae, collectively known as pit vipers.
  • Viperinae, collectively known as “true” or pitless vipers.

1. Azemiopinae, the Fea’s Vipers

Within the four subfamilies of vipers, the Azemiopinae is the smallest group of vipers.

There is only one genus inside it, and only two species are known to exist within that genus: Azemiops feae and Azemiops kharini.

Because the Italian explorer Leonardo Fea was the one who first discovered them in Southeast Asia, they are generally referred to as Fea’s vipers.

As a result of their peculiar biological make-up, Fea’s vipers are one of the most archaic species of viper found anywhere in the world. They have a variety of characteristics that are absent in the other subfamilies of vipers.

To begin, unlike other types of viper snakes, which have scales that are rough and keeled all over their bodies, Fea’s vipers have scales that are entirely smooth and cover their entire bodies.

In addition, the scales that cover and surround their skulls are more similar to those seen on colubrid and elapid snakes than those found on vipers.

Additionally, each scale on the skull is considerably more significant than the scales found on other types of vipers.

Another peculiar characteristic of Fea’s vipers is the relative brevity of their fangs compared to those of other viper species, which typically have much longer fangs.

Because of the relatively small size and oval shape of their skulls, Fea’s vipers have shorter fangs and very small venom glands.

This contrasts with the more broad and diamond-shaped skulls of most conventional vipers. However, compared to other types of viper snakes, they cannot rotate their teeth independently of one another and cannot use them to inject venom.

Last but not least, in contrast to the vast majority of viper species, Fea’s vipers are oviparous, which means that they lay eggs rather than give birth to live young.

2. The Causinae, known as the Night Adders

The night adder is one of the oldest and most basic of all viper species. Take note of this individual’s pupils, which are circular, as opposed to the slit-shaped pupils typical of other viper species.

Finally, we have arrived at the Causinae subfamily of vipers, which is the second-smallest subfamily of vipers within the Viperidae family.

The term “night adders” refers to a collection of seven species that belong to a single genus. This group of reptiles is found solely in sub-Saharan Africa and is the only place on Earth where they are native.

The night adder is another form of viper considered to be the most primitive, similar to the Fea’s viper we have previously discussed. This results from a number of distinctive characteristics that the vast majority of viper species do not possess.

To begin, their pupils are circular, as opposed to slit-shaped like the eyes of most other viper species. In addition, instead of being diamond-shaped, their heads are typically more elongated and oval, and the scales that cover them are significantly larger.

The fangs of night adders are far shorter than the fangs of standard vipers, despite the fact that they can still move and spin on their own.

However, the venom glands of Causinae species are formed differently than those of the vast majority of other types of viper snakes species.

They are also oviparous, which means they lay eggs instead of giving live birth like most vipers. The following is a list of all seven species that collectively make up this group:

  • Common night adder (Causus rhombeatus)
  • Green night adder (Causus resimus)
  • Angolan night adder (Causus rasmusseni)
  • West African night adder (Causus maculatus)
  • Lichtenstein’s night adder (Causus lichtensteinii)
  • Snouted night adder (Causus defilippii)
  • Two-striped night adder (Causus bilineatus)

3. The Crotalinae, known as the Pit Vipers

Within the family Viperidae, the pit viper is the type of viper snake found the most frequently. There are currently about 150 different species of pit vipers living in the Americas and Eurasia.

Vipers are fascinating creatures, and it’s interesting to note that only this particular subfamily of vipers has species that live in North America.

The heat-sensing loreal pits on either side of the snake’s head are where the term “pit viper” originated. In most people, the space between the nostrils and the eyes will reveal the presence of these little pits.

Pit vipers use these one-of-a-kind organs to detect shifts in temperature, thermoregulate their bodies, and even locate their prey!

Pit vipers have specialized organs in their pits, but they also have tiny muscles near their venom glands that can contract to aid in the release of venom through their long, hollow fangs.

The following is a list of some of the particular species that belong to this group:

  • Western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)
  • Eyelash viper (Bothriechis schlegelii)
  • Cottonmouth/Water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
  • Eastern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
  • Side-striped palm-pit viper (Bothriechis lateralis)

The Viperinae, Known as the”True” Vipers

The “genuine” or “pitless” vipers that belong to the Viperinae subfamily are the second most common types of viper snakes. This category is home to a staggering 80 species distributed throughout 13 distinct genera.

There are a large number of species in the family Viperinae, and their sizes range from as little as 13 inches to more than 6 feet in length. However, most of these species have relatively short and thick bodies.

The majority of the species that belong to the Viperinae subfamily originated in the continents of Eurasia and Africa. Because of the geographical areas in which they reside, these snakes are also commonly referred to as “Old World vipers.”

In contrast to the pit viper mentioned earlier, the absence of heat-sensing pit organs in the heads of these vipers is notable.

Despite this, they still have a super nasal sac that helps them detect heat and find prey, which is analogous to how the pit organ operates.

The supernasal sacs of African vipers and puff adders of the Bitis genus, in particular, are particularly sensitive and well-developed.

Ovoviviparity is another characteristic similar to most of these real vipers. However, a few types of viper snakes species, such as horned vipers and most saw-scaled vipers, are oviparous; they lay eggs instead of giving birth.

The following is a list of some of the particular species that belong to this group:

  • Rough-scaled bush viper (Atheris hispida)
  • Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica)
  • Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus)
  • Desert horned viper (Cerastes cerastes)
  • Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii)

There Are a Few Distinguishing Characteristics That All Viperid Snakes Share. These Are the Following:

  • At the rear of the upper jaw, just below the eyes, there are two very long hollow fangs used to inject venom. The upper jaw muscles of vipers are extraordinarily flexible, enabling them to spin their fangs uniquely. When they are not in use, these fangs retract and fold against the roof of the mouth.
  • The capacity to inflict “dry bites” while maintaining precise control over the amount of venom emitted with each bite. Because of this, they can save their venom and only employ the amount required in the circumstances such as self-defense instead of bringing down smaller prey.
  • The skin of viper snakes has keeled scales, which are slightly outward from the body and give the skin of the snake a rough, textured look (present in most but not all species)
  • Ovoviviparity is the reproduction process in which the young of a snake hatch from its eggs while they are still inside the body of the mother snake. After that, the snake gives birth to its offspring while they are still alive.
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