Puff Adder Snake : The African Viper

Puff Adder Snake : The African Viper

Get ready to discover an incredible species of snake. A snake capable of striking at lightning speed. One of the biggest adders of the planet, and above all, the best hide-and-seek player. 🤭 

The Puff Adder (Bitis arietans) is one of the fastest striking snakes globally (2.6m/s).

  • He lives mainly in Morocco. However, he can also be found in the north of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
  • He is on the list of the most dangerous reptiles on Earth. ⚠️
  • He is an animal useful to its biotope, which perceives Man as a predator and not prey. 

puff adder

1. Puff Adder Description

The puff adder is a venomous snake easily recognizable if one day you have the chance (or not) to meet it. Its maximum length is 1.25 meters. He is especially known to have a stocky and robust shape. Because of its mass, it moves slowly, which makes it a huge weak for him. It can weigh up to 7 kg. This snake has very long fangs that can reach 2 cm. The males have a larger body than the females.

  • The body color is beige
  • A triangular head due to its large venom glands at the back. 
  • The pupils are vertical as for all vipers.

It is a widespread nocturnal species in Africa. It can be found almost everywhere on the continent up to an altitude of 2,000 meters. It only avoids tropical rainforests. It is also found in southern Arabia and Yemen.  

Coloration and patterns may vary depending on location. The head has two slashes running from each eye, one to the mouth and the other to the neck. The underside of the head is yellowish-white with small dark spots. The irises can be grey to golden. 

The back has 18 to 22 "U" shaped patterns, brown with black stripes. Some populations may be speckled with brown and black giving a dusty appearance to the animal. The belly is yellow to white with some spots. Juveniles have golden markings on the head.  

Specimens living in eastern and southern Africa are generally more contrasted, often with patterns based on yellow and black, but they show a little coloration rather in all populations. 

puff adder description

2. Puff Adder distribution

This species is probably the most common and widespread in Africa. It is found in Africa and Arabia.  

  • Morocco
  • Algeria
  • South Africa 
  • Gabon
  • Mali

Another species of Viperidae resembling to it, is known as the Gaboon viper

puff adder distribution

3. Puff Adder Diet

He is a carnivorous species that feeds mainly on small mammals. He prefers to wait for its prey in ambush rather than actively hunt them. 

  • rodents 
  • birds
  • amphibians
  • lizards 

puff adder eating small mammals

4. Puff Adder reproduction

The mating period begin from March. Females are viviparous and produce pheromones during the breeding season that attract males. These males engage in ritual fights in the form of dances by hitting each other on the neck.  

The female is capable of producing huge litters of 80 young or more. Unfortunately, many will never reach adulthood. The young  measure between 12.5 and 17.5 cm

puff adder mating

5. Puff Adder Venom

When disturbed, this species becomes nervous and opts for an "S" position with its head down; it inflates itself with air and blows strongly to intimidate its opponent. After very sharp movements of the head, it bites and, even if the injected dose is always less in case of defense, the toxicity of its saliva is lethal. The delivered venom is cytotoxic. It can be extremely dangerous for humans. However, this venom is adapted to kill small mammals quickly and not human 

This viper can inject from 180 to 750 mg of venom with a median lethal dose in hypodermic injection in mice ranging from 4.4 to 7.7 mg/kg.

It attacks only when it feels threatened. Also, it usually warns of its intention to defend itself by hissing and abrupt head movements. If you have been bitten, you should immediately go to the nearest hospital and take an anti-venom

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6. Is the puff Adder an endangered species?

The Puff Adder is not listed by IUCN or CITES and is not considered endangered. However, in Morocco, the species has the misfortune to be among the most "consumed" snakes by Jemaa el fnaa in Marrakech. It dies after two to three months from the consequences of stress or/and torn off fangs.  

Although potentially dangerous for humans, this serpent is very useful in its biotope, he urgently deserves a strengthening of protective measures against its habitat's wild collection and destruction.

Contrary to what one might think, the Puff adder attacks man only as a last resort when it feels threatened or disturbed; if necessary, it "warns" of its intention to bite by whistling and giving sudden head movements. For the viper, man is a predator and not prey. If you see one in Nature, leave it alone, it will do the same! 

puff adder marrakech marocco

7. Conclusion

  • scientific name: Bitis arietans
  • common name: Puff adder
  • geographical distribution: from southern Morocco to South Africa.
  • habits: nocturnal.
  • habitat: grassy savannah, arid or even semi-desert regions.
  • size: up to 120-150cm.
  • food: small mammals, birds, lizards. In captivity, rats and mice.
  • Reproduction: viviparous, the young are born fully formed; they are dangerous from birth.
  • Venom type: cytotoxic

Read also our article about the peringuey's adder if you like this one! 

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