Thursday, July 8, 2010

Creature Feature: Indian Saw-Scaled Viper.

Since I was starting my article on the Reptilianne monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh! today, I figured, "hey, may as well get into Echis." "Echis" is the word for "viper" in Greek, thus giving the name to the "she-viper" Echidna that gave birth to many of the monsters in the Greek legends. The crazy pouched pincushion from Australia came after that.

Again, not this guy.

Enough of that mythological stuff; this about real vipers, not their exaggerated mythological counterparts. The genus Echis, commonly dubbed saw-scaled vipers, ranges from Africa to Sri Lanka. They are small, easily-agitated snakes that utilize hemotoxic (i.e. blood-poisoning) venom. The venom is simple, making it easy to formulate an antivenin, as well as use in anticoagulant drugs.

This is not the Indian saw-scale, but the sound and visuals on this one are EXCELLENT.

The name "saw-scaled viper" comes from their scales (no, really?). Not only are they keeled, but the keels are serrated closer to the flank of the snake. When the snake feels threatened, it rubs these scales together in C-shaped coils, producing a hissing noise. That should be a sign to get your not-immune behind out of the area.

The Indian saw-scaled viper, Echis carinatus, is native to India to Sri Lanka (with 5 subspecies to show for it). E. carinatus is the only saw-scale deadly enough to make it onto a "Deadliest Snake" list.

India has enough deadly snakes to merit a "Big Four" list of the four most lethal snakes on that subcontinent, and this little bugger is on it. To put things in perspective, the infamous king cobra is not on the Big Four.

Is the saw-scale big? No. 80 cm (2.62 feet) is as big as it gets, and even that's above the average 60 cm.

The threat of these snakes comes from being small and aggressive. The hemotoxic venom is a factor, yes, but many movie makers and writers fail to realize that snakes have different temperaments. Saw-scales do not behave like cobras. They will lunge themselves at you instead of just biting. Compare this to a gentle giant like the Burmese python (P. molurus) - it's big, but, for the most part, docile and mellow (unless you smell like rabbit). Even though there's a ton of hubbub about OMG MANEATING PYTHONS, the venomous snakes are always more lethal. NO snakes are 'out to get you.'

Snakes do not make lists just for scare factor. They make lists if they can actually kill you.

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