Sawscaled viper

Echis carinatus

SUBFAMILY

Viperinae

TAXONOMY

Echis carinatus Schneider, 1801, "Arni," near Madras, India. Four subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Carpet viper; French: Échide carénée; German: Sandrasselotter.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The saw-scaled viper is a comparatively small snake, 15-23.6 in (38-60 cm) in length, with an oval head and strongly keeled scales in 27-36 rows around the body. It produces its characteristic sound by coiling its body in parallel loops and rubbing the body sides, with its serrated lateral body scales, together.

DISTRIBUTION

It occurs as several subspecies from India and Sri Lanka in the east to the United Arab Emirates and Oman in the west. In northern Africa and other parts of Asia there are numerous similar species that until recently were considered subspecies of E. carinatus but which today are separated at the species level.

HABITAT

The saw-scaled viper prefers dry, often rocky habitats but also may occur on dry, grassy slopes or even sandy habitats.

BEHAVIOR

This species is a good sidewinder and can move quickly. When threatened, it coils up in a horseshoe fashion and rubs the sides of its body together in opposite directions while producing a sharp sizzling sound. This species is mostly nocturnal.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This viper forages broadly and can eat many different kinds of small animals, such as centipedes, scorpions, birds, rodents, frogs, lizards, and even other snakes.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The saw-scaled viper is oviparous and can produce up to 20 eggs.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Saw-scaled vipers are very aggressive and quick to strike. They produce highly virulent hematoxic venom. In addition, they are often abundant in heavily populated regions, which makes them some of the most dangerous snakes in the world. ♦

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