Gaboon adder

Bitis gabonica

SUBFAMILY

Viperinae

TAXONOMY

Bitis gabonica Duméril Bibron, and Duméril, 1854, "Gabon." Two subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Gaboon viper; French: Vipère du Gabon; German: Gabunviper, Gabunotter.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This species reaches an average size of about 4 ft (120 cm), but it can grow to more than 6.6 ft (2 m). The fangs can be longer than 2 in (50 mm), and the head and body are very broad. The West African subspecies, B. g. rhinoceros, bears a pair of hornlike knobs on the top of the snout. The Gaboon adder has a geometric pattern with rich pastel, brown and whitish colors.

DISTRIBUTION

The nominate subspecies of the Gaboon adder is distributed in central, eastern and southern Africa. The western subspecies, B. g. rhinoceros, occurs in West Africa.

HABITAT

This is a tropical forest species, which is well camouflaged on the forest floor.

BEHAVIOR

The Gaboon adder is a placid species that very rarely strikes. The protection behavior is a loud hissing sound.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Like most vipers, they forage from an ambush position on the forest floor. The prey consists mostly of rodents, even when larger prey, such as mongoose, hares, and monkeys, can be taken.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

This species gives birth to live young. Clutch sizes can be very large, as many as 60 young in a single clutch. Normally, the clutch size is smaller (16—30 in the western subspecies).

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. The species is considered very common in prime forest habitats.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Bites are very rare, as the species is very docile and lives in the rainforest. When bites occur, however, fatalities are common. ♦

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