Saharan Horned Viper

Saharan Horned Viper

Horned desert viper

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Cerastes cerastes
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
15-18 yrs
LENGTH
30-60 cm

The Saharan horned viper is a venomous snake native to the deserts of northern Africa and parts of the Middle East. It often is easily recognized by the presence of a pair of supraocular "horns", although hornless individuals also occur. The color pattern of these snakes consists of a yellowish, pale grey, pinkish, reddish or pale brown ground color, which almost always matches the substrate color where the animal is found. Dorsally, a series of dark, semi-rectangular blotches run the length of their bodies. These blotches may or may not be fused into crossbars. The belly is white and the tail, which may have a black tip, is usually thin.

Distribution

Saharan horned vipers are found in arid North Africa (Morocco, Mauritania, and Mali, eastward through Algeria, Tunisia, Niger, Libya and Chad to Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia) through Sinai to the northern Negev. In the Arabian Peninsula, they occur in Yemen, Kuwait, extreme southwestern Saudi Arabia and parts of the country in Qatar. These snakes favor dry, sandy areas with sparse rock outcroppings, and tend not to prefer coarse sand. They may also be found around oases.

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Saharan horned vipers are solitary and nocturnal creatures. They spend their days resting burrowed in the sand, hiding in holes, under rocks or in abandoned burrows. They typically move about by sidewinding, during which they press their weight into the sand or soil, leaving whole-body impressions. These snakes have a reasonably placid temperament, but if threatened, they may hiss, assume a C-shaped posture and rapidly rub their coils together producing a rasping noise. In the wild they are typically ambush predators, lying submerged in sand adjacent to rocks or under vegetation. When approached, they strike very rapidly, holding on to the captured prey until the venom takes effect.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Saharan horned vipers are carnivores. Their diet consists mainly of lizards, but also small rodents, and birds.

Mating Habits

REPRODUCTION SEASON
April
INCUBATION PERIOD
50-80 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
at birth
FEMALE NAME
female
MALE NAME
male
BABY NAME
snakelet
BABY CARRYING
8-23 eggs

In captivity Saharan horned vipers mate in April. These snakes are oviparous, laying 8-23 eggs that hatch after 50 to 80 days of incubation. Females usually lay their eggs under rocks and in abandoned rodent burrows. The hatchlings measure 12-15 cm (about 5-6 inches) in total length and completely independent from parental care. They become reproductively mature at 2 years of age.

Population

Population threats

There are no major threats facing Saharan horned vipers at present.

Ecological niche

Due to their diet habits, these snakes are important predators in the ecosystem they live. They help to control populations of rodents that often disturb livestock and food sources of local people.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Other common names of this species include desert sidewinding horned viper, Sahara horned viper, desert horned viper, North African horned viper, African desert horned viper, greater cerastes, asp and horned viper.
  • In Egypt, these snakes are called el-ṭorîsha (حية الطريشة); in Libya, they are called um-Goron (ام قرون).
  • If to touch the horns of the Saharan horned viper, they will fold flush against its head allowing the snake to move with ease through sand and burrows.

References

1. Saharan Horned Viper on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerastes_cerastes

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