Levantine viper

Macrovipera lebetina

SUBFAMILY

Viperinae

TAXONOMY

Macrovipera lebetina Linnaeus, 1758, Cyprus. Five subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Blunt-nosed viper; French: Vipère du Levant; German: Levante-Otter.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is a large viper with a head covered with small scales. In some eastern subspecies the supraocular scale can be larger but almost always is semidivided. All body scales are keeled. The color typically is grayish with numerous dark brown or dark gray crossbands, which may be more or less indistinct. The maximum size of this species is 7 ft (214 cm).

DISTRIBUTION

Numerous subspecies occur in dry habitats in western Asia from Cyprus and central Turkey to Pakistan and Kashmir. One subspecies (M. l. transmediterranea) is distributed in North Africa (Tunisia and Algeria).

HABITAT

The species occurs in several kinds of dry habitats, such clay steppes, rocky mountain slopes, grass meadows, and dry deciduous forests. It often is seen near natural water streams or human-made channels. It is well adapted to agriculture areas.

BEHAVIOR

The Levantine viper is mainly nocturnal and is largely responsible for snake bites in the Near East and Middle East, which occur when people walk around at night. When it is disturbed, it typically makes a loud hissing sound.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

It is an opportunistic species and feeds on various kinds of rodents, birds, and lizards.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Like all Macrovipera, the Levantine viper is oviparous, but the hatching time varies between different populations and areas. In some cases the embryos are rather well developed when the eggs are deposited. A single clutch can consist of up to 35 eggs.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. The species is locally abundant within its range. SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The Levantine viper generally is considered dangerously venomous. Bites have been fatal to humans, horses, cows, and camels. ♦

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