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Vipers

Puff adder, Africa and Arabian peninsula, 1 m (39 inches) long. Living on the savanna or dry, rocky habitats, the puff adder...Read More >>Puff adder, Africa and Arabian peninsula, 1 m (39 inches) long. Living on the savanna or dry, rocky habitats, the puff adder relies on its drab colours to camouflage it from predators. A night hunter, it prefers to ambush prey that comes within range. It is responsible for more human fatalities than any other African snake. Vipers are venomous snakes with long, hollow fangs that fold back inside their mouths until they strike. Pit vipers are named after the deep pit, called a fossa, in the area between the eye and nostril on either side of the head. These are the external openings to heat-sensitive organs they use to locate their warm-blooded prey, and which give them a "picture" of it. The pit viper group includes rattlesnakes, moccasins and lanceheads. True, or old world vipers, such as the highly venomous puff adders, do not have these pits.



Rattlesnake coiled for attack. Its venom can be seen dripping from its fangs.

Bite

During a strike, the viper's mouth can open nearly 180°. The fangs are unfolded as late as possible to prevent damage. As the viper's jaws close around its victim and the fangs penetrate its flesh, powerful muscles rapidly inject the venom. Vipers use their venomous bite to paralyse their prey. It can also be used for self-defence, though in some cases they do not inject any venom.
 

There are more than 200 species of viper, living all over the world except Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Madagascar.

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