Hundredpace pitviper

Deinagkistrodon acutus

SUBFAMILY

Crotalinae

TAXONOMY

Deinagkistrodon acutus Günther, 1888, Wusueh, Hupeh Province, China. No subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Long-nosed pitviper, sharp-nosed pitviper; German: Chinesische Nasenotter.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is a large, stout-bodied pitviper, sometimes exceeding 5 ft (1.5 m) in total length. Distinctive features of this species include a protuberant snout and tuberculate keels on the dorsal scales. Nine symmetrical plates cover the crown, although some

fragmentation of these plates is evident in many specimens. Typically, there are seven supralabial and 21 middorsal scale rows and 157-174 ventral and 51-61 subcaudal scale rows. The top of the head is dark brown with a thin, darker postocular stripe. The dorsal ground color is pale gray or brownish gray with dark crossbands that are triangular in lateral view.

DISTRIBUTION

The species occurs in southeastern China, Taiwan, and northern Vietnam.

HABITAT

It inhabits forested hills and mountains at elevations of 330-4,920 ft (100-1,500 m). It often is found near streams and in rocky areas.

BEHAVIOR

The hundred-pace pitviper often is found coiled in the open during the day but also is frequently active at night. It usually raises the head, vibrates the tail, and then strikes if disturbed. In northern Fukien Province, China, these snakes are known to hibernate from late December to early March, but probably they do not hibernate in some warmer parts of the range.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This snake is known to prey on amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals; rodents and anurans are the most common prey.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Courtship has been observed from March through May and also September through December. The female lays five to 32 eggs between June and early September. Eggs, which are attended by the female, hatch in approximately 20-30 days.

CONSERVATION STATUS

This species is not listed by the IUCN. However, with the widespread collection of these snakes for the traditional medicine trade, their status warrants investigation.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

In their classic monograph on the Agkistrodon complex, Howard Gloyd and Roger Conant summarize the extensive use of the hundred-pace pitviper by various Asian cultures. According to the legends and myths of the Paiwan, a tribe indigenous to Taiwan, their first leaders came from the eggs of the hundred-pace pitviper, and the snake features prominently in their art. It is exploited heavily for the traditional medicine trade; raw gallbladders of these snakes are especially prized, but the skin, flesh, eyes, and bones also are used. Snake soup sometimes is prepared from this species; alternatively, entire snakes are preserved in wine, and the wine is used as medicine. Although this is a dangerously venomous snake, its most common English name, hundred-pacer (one can walk only 100 paces before dying), exaggerates the danger; with prompt and proper treatment, bites are rarely life-threatening. ♦

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