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Family: Viperidae Vipers, Vipers

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The Viper Family (Viperidae) - phlegmatic and slow snakes, most of the day they lie motionless, basking in the sun, and only with the onset of dusk begin active hunting. However, even at this time, many large species remain motionless, waiting for prey, while small types of vipers usually combine ambush hunting with short-term pursuit or systematic combing of the hunting area. A variety of animals serve as viper food, primarily small rodents, as well as birds (adults, chicks, eggs), lizards, frogs and toads, insects, arachnids and other invertebrates. Some species specialize in eating certain groups of animals, and many have individual, age, seasonal and geographical differences in diet. Young individuals usually feed on insects and other arthropods, species that live in deserts include lizards in their menu, and birds wait for waterfalls. Small species of snakes continue to feed on insects in the adult state (for example, locusts are the main source of nutrition for steppe vipers). At the places of mass flight of birds, individual snake populations almost completely switch to birds. The method of obtaining food for all vipers is quite the same: applying an instant injection of poisonous teeth, the snake waits for a while, and then crawls to the prey. After making sure that the poison had its effect and the victim was killed, the snake proceeds to swallow.

Viper venom

The complexity and perfection of the structure of the venom vipers (together with pit snakes) reaches the highest stage of evolution. On each maxillary bone they have 1-2 large poisonous teeth and, in addition, 3-4 smaller substitute teeth. In addition to the loss of teeth during injuries, breaking them off during an unsuccessful bite, there occurs a natural periodic loss of teeth, accompanied by the replacement of them with regular replacement teeth. The large poisonous gland in representatives of this family is connected with the upper jaw by a winding duct, which allows the jaw to rotate without creating a duct tension, so the poison can always pass through it without hindrance. From the duct, the poison enters the folds of the mucous membrane surrounding the maxillary bone, and from there into the dental canal. The rotation of the maxillary bone and the setting of the fangs into a fighting position is not automatically associated with opening the mouth: the muscles that open the mouth and move the venomous apparatus operate completely independently.

The most dangerous are the following types of vipers.

The common viper (Vipera berus) is distributed throughout the forest zone of Europe and Asia from the British Isles to Sakhalin and the Shantar Islands, inclusive. Its length does not exceed 75 cm. The color of the top of the body ranges from blue-gray to almost black. On the dorsal side is a dark zigzag strip, not always clearly visible.

To the south, in the forest-steppe and steppe zones, including on the shores of the Black and Caspian seas, a smaller and light-colored steppe viper (V. ursini) is found. The aspis (V. aspis) and sand (V. atmodytes) vipers live on the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

The bites of all these vipers are not dangerous to humans. Lethal outcomes make up no more than 0.5%, and with timely and correctly provided first aid, they are completely absent.

The Armenian viper (Vipera xantina), found in the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, is slightly more dangerous. Its distinctive feature is a clear pattern of round orange or brown spots with a dark rim, often merging into a wide winding strip along the ridge.

Gyurza (Vipera lebetina) is a large snake, some of its specimens reach a length of 1.6 m. The color of the gyurza can be different. The general brownish background of the upper part of the body with darker spots appearing on it predominates. The underside is light gray with small dark spots.

The distribution area of ​​gyurza is very extensive. It is found in many parts of the Mediterranean coast of Africa and on several islands of the Mediterranean Sea, in the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North-West India. On the territory of the USSR it is distributed in the Caucasus and in the southern regions of Central Asia. He,) often lives in the dry mountains, among the reeds and sparse shrubs, along cliffs and in river valleys. He willingly settles near irrigation canals, on cultivated lands, often penetrates the outskirts of villages. In the summer, it leads a nocturnal lifestyle, in spring and autumn it is active during the day. Often climbs trees, waiting for birds. When approaching a person often hides, which increases the risk of collision with her.

Gyurza bite causes severe poisoning. Without proper medical care, 10% of those affected die.

Sand desert epha (Echis carinatus, Fig. 85) is the most widespread among desert vipers, living in the vast territory of deserts and semi-deserts of North Africa and South Asia, starting from Tunisia to India and Sri Lanka inclusive. In our country, it is found in the southern regions of Central Asia, including the southern coast of the Aral Sea and the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea to the Kara-Bogaz-Gol Bay. This small snake, on average 50-60 cm long, differs from most vipers in its special speed and mobility. In the most typical cases, the upper part of her torso is painted in gray-sand color, at the border of the back and sides there are two light zigzag stripes trimmed from below by an unsharp dark line. Along the back is a series of bright transverse spots. On the head there is a light cruciform pattern.

Efa is perfectly adapted to life in the desert. It quickly moves along the sand in a special, “lateral” way and can dig into it, spreading the grains of sand with subtle transverse body movements. At the same time, it seems that she literally "drowns" in the sand before our eyes. Like many desert snakes, in the hot season, ephs are active at night. With the onset of cooling, they switch to a daily lifestyle. Efa venom has significant toxicity to humans. In the absence of medical care, about 6% of those bitten die.

The most dangerous for humans is the chain viper, or daboya (Vipera russeli, Fig. 86), distributed throughout South and Southeast Asia from India to southern China, as well as in Taiwan, Ceylon, East Java and some other islands. This large thick snake up to 1.5 m long has a very beautiful color. On the back, on a brownish or gray background, there are three rows of well-defined reddish-brown spots surrounded by dark rings with white outer rims. Neighboring spots can merge with each other, forming a chain. There is an arrow-shaped pattern on the head. White stripes run from the eyes to the corners of the mouth.

Chain vipers live both on coasts and in mountainous areas, settle on cultivated lands. They lead a twilight lifestyle, and during the day they hide in the burrows of rodents and in other shelters or bask in the sun. They crawl out onto roads and paths, penetrate houses.

When meeting a person, they are not aggressive, but during provocation they can throw almost the entire length of the body, breaking off the ground.

The danger of a collision with Daboya is reduced due to the fact that a very loud hiss of a snake can be heard at a distance of several meters. Despite this, the chain adder apparently accounts for the majority of all recorded snake bites in India and Indochina.

Daboya venom is highly toxic to humans, and the dose administered by the bite is high, therefore, poisoning is difficult. Without treatment, more than 15% of those affected die.

On the African continent, in addition to the northern coast, African vipers (the genus Bitis) are common. Of the ten species, the most dangerous is the noisy viper (Bitis arietans), large specimens of which reach 1.5 m in length. Its color is brownish or grayish-yellow. Along the back there is a series of light yellow sickle-shaped strips directed with sharp ends forward and bordered in front by wide dark brown stripes. From the eyes to the temples there are two wide bright stripes connected by a light transverse line.

There is a noisy viper in all landscapes, except for tropical forests and deserts, it is found on agricultural lands, penetrates into buildings. Thanks to its variegated color, it is very difficult to notice against the surrounding background, which increases the risk of contact with it. Leads a nocturnal lifestyle. Day sluggish and phlegmatic. Only in case of severe irritation begins to hiss loudly, inflating? the torso, which was the reason for the name "noisy."

The venom of a noisy viper is very toxic to humans.

The largest of the African vipers is the Gabon viper, reaching a length of 2 m. By coloring, it is one of the most beautiful snakes. The upper side surfaces of the body are covered with a pattern of regular geometric shapes of a triangular shape, painted in bright pink, purple, black, white and brown tones. Along the ridge is a series of white or light yellow rectangular spots, the head is light gray with a narrow dark strip in the middle and two triangular spots on the sides. At the front edge of the muzzle there are two large awl-shaped scales slightly curved back. The dissecting coloring makes the snake completely invisible against a motley background of tropical vegetation. The Gabon viper is found on both the west and east coast of Africa.

Prefers wooded and humid habitats. Gabon viper has a very peaceful disposition and rarely bites. However, poisoning caused by her bites is very difficult and often leads to the death of victims. Wood vipers are common in the tropical forests of Central Africa. These are small, agile, mobile snakes about 50-60 cm long, adapted to life on trees. They are painted in various shades of green with yellow spots, due to which they are well camouflaged among the foliage. Their bites applied to the upper body can cause serious poisoning in the victims.

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