Desert horned viper, Cerastes cerastes, Saharan horned viper, Desert horned viper
Cerastes cerastes, commonly known as the Saharan horned viper or the desert horned viper, is a venomous species of viper native to the deserts of northern Africa and parts of the Arabian Peninsula and Levant. It often is easily recognized by the presence of a pair of supraocular "horns", although hornless individuals do occur. Three subspecies have been described.
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...
Ambush predators are carnivorous animals that capture or trap prey by stealth, luring, or by (typically instinctive) strategies utilizing an elemen...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
A fossorial animal is one adapted to digging which lives primarily but not solely, underground. Some examples are badgers, naked mole-rats, clams, ...
Oviparous animals are female animals that lay their eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive...
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 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.
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.
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. Saharan horned vipers are ambush predators; they hunt their prey laying 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.
Cerastes cerastes venom is reported to be similar in action to Echis venom. Envenomation usually causes swelling, haemorrhage, necrosis, nausea, vomiting, and haematuria. A high phospholipase A2 content may cause cardiotoxicity and myotoxicity. Studies of venom from both C. cerastes and C. vipera list a total of eight venom fractions, the most powerful of which has haemorrhagic activity. Venom yields vary, with ranges of 19–27 mg to 100 mg of dried venom being reported. For venom toxicity, Brown (1973) gives LD50 values of 0.4 mg/kg IV and 3.0 mg/kg SC. An estimated lethal dose for humans is 40–50 mg.
Saharan horned vipers are carnivores. Their diet consists mainly of lizards, but also small rodents, and birds.
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 are completely independent from parental care. They become reproductively mature at 2 years of age.
There are no major threats facing Saharan horned vipers at present.
Presently, the Saharan horned viper is not included in the IUCN Red List and its conservation status has not been evaluated.
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 the food sources of local people.