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Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Snake With The Longest Fangs On The Planet

The Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica) is found in the tropical rainforests of central and western Africa. It is not only recognized as the largest member of the genus Bitis, but also the world’s heaviest viperid. The Gaboon viper possesses the longest fangs of any venomous snake in the world, measuring up to 5cm in length. To service such long fangs, the snake needs to have equally large venom glands. These are located inside the head behind the ears. This arrangement produces the arrow-shaped heads of vipers and is reason for the broad triangular-shaped head of the Gaboon viper. The stout body is beyond doubt strikingly patterned, with triangular and hour glass shapes of beige, brown, and purple which gives the snake its velvet-like look. This pattern provides excellent camouflage in the middle of the leaf litter of the forest floor (as you can see on the above image).

The Gaboon viper is mainly nocturnal. Despite the fact that it can climb trees, its natural habitat is the forest floor. Some Gaboon vipers lie in ambush for days, motionless amongst the leaf litter or under bushes, waiting for suitable prey such as small mammals, amphibians, and birds to come within reach. It will then lunge forward and sink its fangs into the animal, delivering a huge dose of its mighty venom. Once the viper strikes its victim, the Gaboon viper hangs onto it with its large fangs rather than letting it go and waiting for it to die. There are also reports of more unlikely prey items such as giant rats and fully-grown rabbits.

Gaboon vipers can directly harm humans if threatened (so don’t try stepping on one of them); however they are usually non-aggressive and reluctant to bite (unless you’re a rodent of course). When threatened, it will either hiss or deliver a venomous bite. The venom is weaker than many African vipers, but the size of the doze means that it is likely to be deadly if no medical treatment is received. Humans have died from Gaboon viper bites. Survivors have often had to have affected limbs amputated.

Gestation takes about a year, which suggests a breeding cycle of about 2 to 3 years. Gaboon vipers may give birth to 8-43 baby vipers in a single litter. The newborn babies are approximately 25-32 cm long.

For more information: wikipedia

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