"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

Other Animals     2022年10月03日

The sands bear telltale signs of our quarry having moved across it quite recently.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

But, the wind has already begun shifting grains of sand onto the tracks, so we hurry on to try and find the animal before we lose the trail completely.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

Panting, we reach a little scrubby bush and look carefully all around it. No sign of anything!

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

Then, when we get down on our knees and carefully peer beneath the foliage, we see the typical patterning on one coil of the saw-scaled viper.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

The reason this particular one was special after seeing hundreds of saw-scaled viper throughout my life, was that this snake was in Rajasthan and a different subspecies from the one I was used to.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

Saw-scaled vipers in South India belong to the subspecies Echis carinatus carinatus and grow to a maximum length of about 40 cm.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

The ones in Rajasthan are Sochurek’s saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus sochureki) and grow to twice that length.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

Aside from the disparity in size, Sochurek’s saw-scaled vipers have a very different pattern from their southern cousins.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

These enigmatic vipers get their name from rows of strongly keeled scales along their sides, which are oriented upward as opposed to backward, which is the norm in most snakes.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

When threatened, the saw-scaled viper bunches its body into a tight ‘S’ shape, and moves to rub these scales together, creating a raspy sound, much like a tiny saw.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

It’s truly a spectacle to watch these little snakes create such a significant sound with their scales. The process by which animals rub body parts together to make sounds is called stridulation.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

Another adaptation to life on the dunes is the sidewinding movement that these snakes adopt so they can move efficiently on a substrate that offers little traction.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

It’s what enables us to identify the unique tracks they leave behind

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

The group of snakes called saw-scaled vipers includes twelve species currently. India has one species with the two subspecies.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

Having said that, it is quite likely that further taxonomic work will split this into more species within the country.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India

This group of snakes is believed to be involved in the most number of snakebite cases in the world, and in Africa they are believed to cause the highest number of deaths.

"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India
"Saw Scaled Viper" One of the most enigmatic of the big four dangerous snakes of India