Horned viper, Long-nosed viper, Sand viper, Sand adder, Common sand adder, Common sand viper, Sand natter
The Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) is a venomous species found in southern Europe. It is reputed to be the most dangerous of the European vipers due to its large size, long fangs (up to 13 mm), and high venom toxicity. The specific name, ammodytes, is derived from the Greek words ammos, meaning "sand", and dutes, meaning "burrower" or "diver", despite its preference for rocky habitats.
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by being active during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal",...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Ovoviviparity, ovovivipary, ovivipary, or aplacental viviparity is a term used as a "bridging" form of reproduction between egg-laying oviparous an...
Predators are animals that kill and eat other organisms, their prey. Predators may actively search for or pursue prey or wait for it, often conceal...
Dangerous animals demonstrate aggression and a propensity to attack or harass people or other animals without provocation.
Venom is a type of poison, especially one secreted by an animal. It is delivered in a bite, sting, or similar action. Venom has evolved in terrestr...
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
Hibernation is a state of minimal activity and metabolic depression undergone by some animal species. Hibernation is a seasonal heterothermy charac...
The head of the Nose-horned viper is covered in small, irregular scales, that are either smooth or only weakly keeled; a pair of large supraocular scales also extends beyond the posterior margin of the eye. Ten to thirteen small scales surround each eye, and two rows separate the eye from the supralabials. The nasal scale is large, single (rarely divided), and separated from the rostral by a single nasorostral scale. The rostral scale is wider than it is long. The most distinctive characteristic is a single "horn" on the snout, just above the rostral scale. It consists of approximately nine to seventeen small scales, arranged in two (occasionally three or four) transverse rows. It grows to a length of about 5 mm (0.20 in) and is actually soft and flexible. In the southern subspecies, the horn sits vertically upright, while in V. a. Ammodytes it points diagonally forward. The color pattern is different for males and females. In males, the head has irregular dark brown, dark gray, or black markings. A thick, black stripe runs from behind the eye to behind the angle of the jaw. The tongue is usually black, and the iris has a golden or coppery color. Males have a characteristic dark blotch or V marking on the back of the head that often connects to the dorsal zigzag pattern. The ground color for males varies and includes many different shades of gray, sometimes yellowish or pinkish gray, or yellowish brown. The dorsal zigzag is dark gray or black, the edge of which is sometimes darker. A row of indistinct, dark (occasionally yellowish) spots runs along each side, sometimes joined in a wavy band. Females have a similar color pattern, except that it is less distinct and contrasting. They usually lack the dark blotch or V-shaped marking (on the back of the head) that the males have. Ground color is variable, and tends more towards browns and bronzes; grayish-brown, reddish-brown, copper, "dirty cream", or brick red. The dorsal zigzag is a shade of brown. Both sexes have a zigzag dorsal stripe, set against a lighter background. This pattern is often fragmented. The belly color varies and can be grayish, yellowish-brown, or pinkish and "heavily clouded", or with dark spots. Sometimes, the ventral color is black or bluish-gray, with white flecks and inclusions edged in white. The chin is lighter in color than the belly. Underneath, the tip of the tail may be yellow, orange, orange-red, red, or green. Melanism does occur, but is rare. Juvenile color patterns are about the same as the adults.
Nose-horned vipers are found in southern Europe through to the Balkans and parts of the Middle East. They occur in Southern Austria, north-eastern Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, Greece (including the Cyclades), Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Georgia. These snakes primarily inhabit dry, rocky hillsides with sparse vegetation, open woodland and scrub, and sand dunes. They may also be found in areas of human habitation, such as railway embankments, farmland, and especially vineyards if rubble piles and stone walls are present.
Nose-horned vipers are solitary and depending on location can be active both during the day and night. They hibernate in the winter for a period of 2 to 6 months depending on environmental conditions. Despite their reputation, Nose-horned vipers are not aggressive and tend not to bite without considerable provocation. If surprised, wild specimens may react in a number of different ways. Some remain motionless and hiss loudly, some hiss and then flee, while still others will attempt to bite immediately.
This is likely the most dangerous snake to be found in Europe. In some areas, it is at least a significant medical risk. The venom can be quite toxic but varies over time and among different populations. The venom has both proteolytic and neurotoxic components and contains hemotoxins with blood-coagulant properties, similar to and as powerful as in crotaline venom. Other properties include anticoagulant effects, hemoconcentration, and hemorrhage. Bites promote symptoms typical of viperid envenomation, such as pain, swelling, and discoloration, all of which may be immediate. There are also reports of dizziness and tingling. Humans respond rapidly to this venom, as do mice and birds. Lizards are less affected, while amphibians may even survive a bite. European snakes, such as Coronella and Natrix, are possibly immune. Venom of the Nose-horned viper is used in the production of antivenin for the bite of other European vipers and the snake is farmed for this purpose.
Nose-horned vipers are carnivores. They feed on small mammals and birds. Juveniles prefer lizards. Nose-horned vipers will occasionally eat other snakes and there are also reports of cannibalism.
The mating season for Nose-horned vipers starts in the spring (April-May), right after hibernation. Before mating, the males will engage in a combat dance. This species is ovoviviparous and females give birth to 1-20 live young usually in late summer or fall (August–October). Snakelets are born fully developed and are 14-24 cm (5.5-9.4 in) in total length.
Nose-horned vipers are threatened by the overcollection of their venom and like many other snakes, they suffer from persecution by people.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Nose-horned viper total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.