Is a puff adder a pit viper?

Answered by Willian Lymon

Is a Puff Adder a Pit Viper?

When it comes to the taxonomy of snakes, it can be quite fascinating to delve into the different sub-families and classifications. One particular sub-family that often captures the attention of snake enthusiasts is the Crotalinae, commonly known as Pit Vipers. So, is a Puff Adder considered a pit viper? Let’s explore the taxonomy and characteristics of the Puff Adder to find out.

To begin, it’s important to understand that the classification of snakes is based on various factors, including their physical characteristics, behavior, and venom. The family Viperidae consists of several sub-families, one of which is the Crotalinae, or Pit Vipers. This sub-family is known for having specialized heat-sensing pits located on their heads, which allow them to detect and locate prey.

However, the term “pit viper” is often used more broadly to encompass a range of venomous snakes that share similar characteristics. It is important to note that not all snakes within the Crotalinae sub-family are referred to as pit vipers, and conversely, not all pit vipers belong to the Crotalinae sub-family.

Now, let’s focus on the Puff Adder (Bitis arietans), which is classified as a venomous snake belonging to the Viperidae family. More specifically, the Puff Adder falls under the sub-family Viperinae, also known as True Vipers or Non-Pit Vipers. This sub-family includes snakes that lack the heat-sensing pits found in pit vipers.

The Puff Adder is known for its distinctive appearance, characterized by a stout body, broad triangular head, and a series of dark, zigzag-like patterns along its back. It is widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa and is notorious for its potent venom and defensive behavior.

Unlike pit vipers, which rely on their heat-sensing pits to locate prey, Puff Adders primarily use their excellent camouflage and ambush tactics to catch their food. They are known to lie in wait, partially buried or concealed, and strike with lightning speed when unsuspecting prey ventures too close. Their venom is highly cytotoxic, causing severe tissue damage and often resulting in painful and potentially life-threatening bites.

While the Puff Adder is a venomous snake belonging to the Viperidae family, it is not considered a pit viper. Pit vipers are a specific sub-family, Crotalinae, characterized by their heat-sensing pits. The Puff Adder, on the other hand, belongs to the sub-family Viperinae, which lacks these specialized pits but possesses its own unique adaptations for survival and hunting.

Remember, snake taxonomy is a complex and ever-evolving field, and as new research and discoveries emerge, our understanding of these fascinating creatures continues to expand.