Thursday, June 18, 2009

Saw-Scaled Viper | Echis carinatus

Labels: Saw-scaled Vipers, Carpet Vipers, Phoorsa

Binomial name: Echis carinatus

Common name: Saw-Scaled Viper

Scientific classification




















E. carinatus


Distinguishing Features: Small; strongly keeled scales; head wider than neck; dull colour; cross mark on top of the head distinct.

Average Length: 30-50 cm; At Birth: 8 cm; Maximum: 8 cm.

Description: Saw-scaled Vipers are rough scaled snakes with large eyes, wider head than neck and stocky body. Their scales are deeply keeled. Their body colour is usually brown, greyish or sandy with a darker zigzag pattern on the back and a characteristic cross mark on the head. Their underside is white with brown speckles. Their tails are short and stubby. They are the smallest of the big four venomous snakes of India. They are less of a threat in South India because of their small size; however the Northern form grows large enough to be potentially dangerous member of the Big Four.

Distribution: They are found throughout India, mostly on plains. They are reported up to 2,000 m in the hills of North. They are found in plenty in some areas like Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, parts of Punjab, and Andhra Pradesh.

Habitat: They reside in the dry, sandy or rocky plains. They usually rest under rocks, behind barks, in thorny plants and other dry concealed places. Their favourite haunts include areas of laterite soil, boulders, and light scrub jungle with small hills and open dry tracts.

Habits: Mainly this viper is nocturnal and rarely makes a day-light appearance except possibly to bask in the sun after a cold, rainy night. This inconspicuous snake hides under rocks, bushes or in burrows during day time. They become very lively on humid or rainy nights and regular warm roads after dark. Saw-scaled Vipers get its English and Hindi names from the saw-edged keels of their lateral scales, which it rubs producing a ‘ssshhh’ sound which is similar to the hissing noise produced by other snakes during violent breathing.

Young: Female bears 4 to 8 living young between the months of April and August.

Food: They feed on lizards, mice, frogs, scorpions and few other arthropods.

Status: This species are plentiful throughout and are collected in large numbers in some areas like the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra for production of anti-venom at the Haffkine Institute.

Venom: Saw-scaled Vipers cause the largest number of venomous bites in the regions where they are very common. As this snake is fairly small, its bite is rarely fatal. Their venom is a strong blood coagulant, which after neutralizing the body’s clotting agent, causes a bleeding tendency similar to haemophilia. The bite can be treated by way such as anti-venom, transfusions, Vitamin K and calcium carbonate.

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