Friday, May 29, 2009

Russell viper | Vipera russelii

Labels: Russell's viper, Daboia, Chain viper, Indian Russell's viper

Binomial name: Vipera russelii

Common name: Russell viper

Scientific classification




















V. russellii


Distinguishing Features: Medium to large sized; strongly keeled scales; distinctive bright chain pattern; large triangular head.

Average Length: 1 m; At Birth: 24 cm; Maximum: 1.8 m (male).

Description: They are bulky, rough scaled snakes with vertical eye pupils and bright pattern. Body colour is usually brown or yellowish with dark, round spots edged with white and black pattern. Their underside is white or speckled, depending on the region where they occur. Russell Vipers can be identified by their short, fat body, triangular shaped head and regular chain-like pattern. Also the presence of bright symmetrical spots on their back makes them easily distinguishable. They sometimes resemble the fat, harmless common sand boas which however have shorter and blunter tails and irregular body patterns. The big four fatal snakes of India include the Russell Viper.

Distribution: They occur in hills and plains throughout India, up to 3,000 m.

Habitat: Russell Vipers reside in the open areas off the hilly regions and plain scrub jungle bordering farm lands. They are found in termite mounds and rat holes in very hot weather, but their preferred places are rock fissures, thick leaves, grass, thorn bushes and cacti. Pandanus bushes and Agave are their favourite abodes.

Habits: This snake may seem to be sluggish, but when aggravated they are capable of very fast movements in short spurts. Russell Vipers may bite in defence and make a hissing sound. They are coy and timid, unlike cobras which are proficient at quick escape. Bites usually happen as a result of accidents in the plantation, estate and farms where farmers unknowingly put their feet or hands in dense bushes, or step on a viper.

Young: Female vipers produce 20 to 40 living young, who are bright replicas of the parents, in the months during May to July.

Food: Young ones are wild in activity and can eat other snakes, lizards, mice, land crabs and sometimes even feed on scorpions and few arthropods. The adult vipers seem to be rodent-eaters, probably catching a bird.

Status: This species forms a main resource of the skin industry in South India. Russell Vipers are completely exterminated in some areas through enormous all-season collection.

Venom: Their venom is extremely toxic and the bite is one of the most lethal of all Indian snakes. So it should be urgently treated with ample anti-venom. This poisonous venom affects the blood and is used in medicine to check bleeding.

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