Significance to humans

Bites from viperids are problems at the local level. Snake bites kill 30,000-40,000 people in the world each year. The majority of snakebite cases occur in Asia, with India having the highest number, 10,000-15,000 deaths per year. Vipers such as Daboia russellii and Echis carinatus contribute to a large number of these incidents. Viperids have figured prominently in the legends and religious ceremonies of many cultures. For example, in the first edition of Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, H.-G. Petzold provided an account of the Hopi snake dance. Certain Christian groups in the southeastern United States "take up serpents" such as Crotalus horridus and Agk-istrodon contortrix, as part of their religious ceremonies, grasping the snakes at midbody and dancing with them. The pharmaceutical ancrod (an anticoagulant) is derived from the venom of Calloselasma rhodostoma. In the Old World, viperids are hunted for use in traditional medicine, and in the New World they are persecuted during organized events called rattlesnake roundups. Viperids play critical roles in food webs that affect humans.


1. Russel's viper (Daboia russelii); 2. Fea's viper (Azemiops feae); 3. Horned viper (Cerastes cerastes); 4. Green bush viper (Atheris squamigera); 5. Common adder (Vipera berus); 6. Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus); 7. Rhombic night adder (Causus rhombeatus); 8. Gaboon adder (Bitis gabonica); 9. Levantine viper (Macrovipera lebetina). (Illustration by Dan Erickson)

Bush Viper Food Chain

1. Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus); 2. Tibetan pitviper (Gloydius strauchi); 3. Sri Lankan hump-nosed pitviper (Hypnale nepa); 4. Hundred-pace pitviper (Deinagkistrodon acutus); 5. Patagonian lancehead (Bothrops ammodytoides); 6. Yellow-blotched palm pitviper (Bothriechis aurifer); 7. Timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus); 8. Black-headed bushmaster (Lachesis melanocephala). (Illustration by Dan Erickson)

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