Spiny Bush Viper

Spiny Bush Viper
Spiny Bush Viper Image Source


Spiny Bush Viper Facts


  • First of all, the small but deadly Spiny Bush Viper has managed to surprise herpetologists. That’s because this species of snake has proven to be far more toxic than researchers previously believed it to be. They now know it to be quite deadly.
  • Yet this fact should not be a surprise since they generally inhabit regions far from humans. As a result, this animal has not been well studied. In addition, they appear to be rather reclusive even within their endemic habitat.
  • While the heavily keeled scales remain a consistent trait for the species, colors vary greatly between individuals. As a result, many people often mistake individuals for members of entirely different species.
  • Fortunately for humans, encounters with this species remain rare, and envenomings even more so. Yet within their native environment they display impressive hunting abilities. They hunt as ambush predators and do so most effectively.

Spiny Bush Viper
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Spiny Bush Viper Physical Description

In addition to being a rather small species of snake, the Spiny Bush Viper displays a moderate degree of sexual dimorphism. Males attain an average length of approximately 29 in (73 cm), while females only average 23 in (58 cm) in length. Furthermore, the males have a much more slender shape than the females.

The head has a short snout (more so in males than females). The species also has relatively large eyes. The coloring varies significantly between individuals and typically includes shades of blue, green, and brown. This often leads people to mistake individual snakes for members of differing species.

Yet the highly distinctive scales remain its most noteworthy feature. These develop heavily keeled and quite elongated, giving the species a shaggy or bristly appearance.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Family: Viperidae

Genus: Atheris

Species: A. hispida

Spiny Bush Viper
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Spiny Bush Viper Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology

The Spiny Bush Viper remains endemic to specific portions of Central Africa. This includes portions of Uganda, Kenya, and Congo. The species typically inhabits regions of rainforest, since these contain large numbers of flowering bushes. Most of these regions remain far from human habitation, making encounters rare.

Their patterns remain primarily nocturnal, and their habits reflect this. This snake hunts as an ambush predator and likes to perch on reeds and small bushes. They will also use their highly prehensile tails to hang from tree limbs, waiting to strike at prey. Its prey primarily consists of birds, rodents, lizards, and frogs, the majority of which become active at night.

Females give birth between March and April, often to up to 12 young at a time. Scientists still know little about their venom, except that it appears to be neurotoxic, and far deadlier than once believed.

Rather interestingly, the toxicity of the venom seems to vary due to many factors. These even include weather conditions and the altitude at which the individual snake lives.

Check out our articles on Tiger Rattlesnake, Olive Sea Snake, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

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Todd Sain Sr.