Are vipers poisonous snakes

University of Applied Sciences Bremen - University of Applied Sciences

Aspi viper - poisonous beauty in the southwest

A student contribution by Karoline Arfmann and Mareike Kiupel [12.12.11] Systematic classification Family - Viperidae (Vipers)
Subfamily - Viperinae
Genus - Vipera (Real Otters)
Species - Vipera aspis (aspis viper)

(Url 2) features The aspic viper looks very similar to the adder and is indistinguishable from the layman (URL 2). It reaches a size of about 70 cm and has a dark, jagged or wavy band on the back. Their coloration varies depending on gender and habitat, from light gray to brown to black (URL 1). The head is triangular and clearly separated from the rest of the body (URL 3). The muzzle is pulled up slightly, but there is no muzzle horn (URL 1). As with all poisonous snakes native to Germany, the pupils are vertical and the iris is brownish-yellow (URL 4). The males are usually larger than the females and have a more contrasting back pattern (URL 3).

Fig. 1: Adult of the variant (V. aspis aspis) that occurs in Germany and France, photo: Harold van der Ploeg 'Vipera aspis aspis' (a file from the Wikimedia Commons).
distribution The aspis viper is only found in Europe. It occurs in the Black Forest, in southeast France, northeast Spain, in western Austria and in large parts of Italy (Fig. 2). In Germany, it is threatened with extinction (URL 5), while it is classified as safe (“least concern”) in the international Red List (URL 6).

Fig. 2: Distribution map of the aspic viper in Europe. Graphic: Achim Raschka (a file from the Wikimedia Commons).
Habitat, way of life The preferred habitats of the aspic viper are warm, dry and stony biotopes at altitudes of up to 3000 m, for example quarries, scree fields or gravel areas on south-facing slopes or river banks. (URL 4)
It is predominantly diurnal, but partly also crepuscular or nocturnal. Typical prey animals include small mammals and lizards, but more rarely also frogs and birds. (URL 3) The aspic viper is a stalker, which means that prey animals are bitten, pursued to death and then devoured in one piece from the head (URL 4).
The predators are various species of martens, ravens, carrion crows, hedgehogs and buzzards. The young can also fall prey to other snake species (URL 3).
The mating season is from April to May and possibly again in September to October. The males seek out the females and, if necessary, fight rivalries with other males. After mating, the males' sperm remains in the female's body for four to six weeks; only then does the eggs fertilize. (URL 3) The aspic viper is ovoviviparous and can have 4 to 20 young animals at once (URL 4).
The animals hibernate underground from October to March. They usually do this one at a time. (Url 3) Dangerousness The aspis viper is one of two poisonous snakes native to Germany. Their venom is slightly more poisonous than that of the adder. Their venom is hemorrhagic (causing bleeding) and cytotoxic (destroying tissue) (URL 2). The individual composition of the poison varies depending on the habitat and conditions, which was investigated by the Pasteur Institute in Paris (FERQUEL et al.). In this study, which was carried out in France, neurotoxins (i.e. ammodytoxin isoforms) that would otherwise not occur in this snake species were detected in a population from a certain region. This requires the development of various antisera against the venom of a single species of snake.
Since humans are not prey of the asp viper, it usually flees and only attacks when it is harassed. As a rule, it initially emits a clear warning by curling up, lifting its front body and clearly audible hissing. (Url 3)
A bite is not fatal in a healthy person, and with timely medical care, permanent damage rarely occurs. The symptoms of a bite are swelling of the bite wound that spreads towards the center of the body. The poison causes mild to severe pain, depending on the amount injected and factors such as the age, height, weight and health of the person bitten, the location of the bite and others. In rare cases, symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, palpitations, cramps, impaired consciousness or even paralysis can occur. (URL 1 & 2)
Cases of allergic reactions to the proteins injected with the poison are also known (URL 2). What to do in the event of a bite
In the event of a bite, the wound should not be sucked out, as the poison could enter the bloodstream via the mouth. The wound should also not be tied, cut out, burned out or cooled.
Fluids should be given, but no alcohol or beverages containing caffeine. The bitten person should move as little as possible and should be transported immediately, preferably lying down, to a doctor, where an antiserum can be administered. For this it is helpful if the snake has been identified beforehand. (Url 2) References Literature sources:

FERQUEL, E., DE HARO, L., JAN, V., GUILLEMIN, I., JOURDAIN, S., TEYNIÉ, A., D'ALAYER, J. & CHOUMET, V. (2007): Reappraisal of Vipera aspis venom neurotoxicity. PLoS ONE 2 (11): e1194. doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0001194

Web sources:

URL 1: [December 8th, 2011]
URL 2: [December 8th, 2011]
URL 3: Bäumen [08.12.2011]
URL 4: [12/08/2011]
URL 5: [12.12.11]
URL 6: [12.12.11]

Image sources:

Banner: [December 8th, 2011], photo: Eric Steinert
Fig. 1: [09.12.11]
Fig. 2: [December 8th, 2011]