Russell’s Viper

Russell’s Viper which has the scientific name, Daboia russelii, belong to the family of venomous snakes called Viperidae which is native to the subcontinent of India.

The name Russell’s Viper was given in honor of Patrick Russell who was the first to write about it in 1796, in his work “An account of Indian serpents, collected on the Coromandel coast”.

It is a common belief among herpetologists that another specie of snake known as Gongylophis Conicus, a rough-scaled sand boa has come to mimic the appearance of D. russelii, this is because D. russelii has a dreadful reputation within its natural environment and it has become so successful as a species.

Taking a superficial look at the rough-scaled sand boa, we will see that its color pattern resembles that of D. russelii, although it causes no harm.

Table of Contents

Scientific Classification

  • Scientific Name: Daboia Russelii
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Suborder: Serpentes
  • Family: Viperidae
  • Genus: Daboia
  • Species: D. russelii

Description

The maximum length Russell Viper can grow up to 5.5ft while on mainland Asian populations, it measures up to an average of 4ft. On the average, Island populations might slightly be smaller. The Russell viper is more reduced and smaller in width than most vipers.

For a fair-sized specimen, the following dimensions were taken;

Total length4 ft., 1 inch  124cm
Length of tail7 inches18cm
Girth6 inches15cm
Width of head2 inches5cm
Length of head2 inches5cm
  • The Russell viper has a flat, triangular head which is distinct from the neck.
  • It has a blunt, round snout which is also raised.
  • The nostrils are big, with each situated in the middle of a big, single nasal scale. The supranasal scale which is curved and separates from the nasorostral scale in an anterior direction.
  • The top of the Russell vipers head is covered with a strong fragment of irregular scales.
  • The supra ocular scales are single, cramped, and separated by 6-9 scales across the head.
  • It has large eyes which are blotted with gold or yellow, surrounded by 10-15 circumorbital scales.
  • The two maxillary bones provide back-up for up to 5 or 6 pairs of fangs at a time.
  • The coloration on the Russell viper’s body consists of yellow, tan, or brown ground color with three different dark brown spots which runs through the length of the body, dorsally.
  • The head comprise of a pair of different dark patches, one on each temple, together with a salmon, brownish V or X or pinkish marking which forms an apex towards the snout.
  • It also has a venter which is blotted with yellowish, whitish, or pinkish mostly with an irregular scattering of dark spots.

Distribution and Habitat

The Russell Viper is common in Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Myanmar, China, Indonesia, and Taiwan. It can be found in some areas but rare in some areas, within its range. It is very common in along the west coast of Punjab, India.

The Russell Viper is not confined to a particular habitat but is hardly found in dense habitat. It is commonly found in grass, bushy, and open areas. It is also widespread in coastal lowlands, hills and plains of favorable habitat.

It tends to avoid swampy, marshy, rainforest. The species of Russell Viper are attracted to urban areas because of the abundance of rodents as these are their main preys.

Those who live in these areas are usually at a high risk of being attacked by these species of dangerous snake.

Behaviour

Russell’s Viper
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Russell Viper is always active primarily during the night, it is during this period that it goes out to hunt for food as it is a terrestrial animal. Its behavior changes especially during cold weather thereby becoming day hunter, becoming very active during the day.

The adult Russell vipers are usually sluggish, and slow except when pushed to the limit, it becomes extremely aggressive. The young Russell vipers are usually scared and nervous.

When under threat, the Russell Viper tend to form a series of S-loops, then one-third of its body is raised as it produces a loud hiss far louder than that of other snakes.

The force a Russell Viper exerts when striking from its position could be so great that it can cause a huge individual to lift most of its body off the ground.

Sometimes they hang unto their bites for seconds, which it is more fatal, while their bite might just be a snap.

Reproduction

Mating among Russell vipers usually takes place during the early part of the year, but the pregnant ones are commonly seen at any time. The gestation period takes more than six months. Juveniles are usually bred from May to November but usually in June and July. The young ones usually measure up to 8.5-10.2 inches.

Venom

The amount of venom disseminated by a Russell Viper is moderate. The venom yields for adult Russell vipers are reported to be within the range of 130-250mg to 150-250mg.

Russell’s Viper
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