The Caucasian viper used to live in large numbers on the territory of the Russian Federation. It is distinguished by its variegated color, which makes it impossible to confuse it with any other snakes. The features of the behavior and life of this reptile are not fully understood, since its number is small, and besides, it is constantly decreasing over time.
The snake belongs to the category of poisonous reptiles, whose poison is very dangerous for humans. However, she will never attack first. When meeting with a person, the viper prefers to hide. Attacks only when it feels clearly threatened.
Species origin and description
The Caucasian viper belongs to vertebrate reptiles, it is divided into the order scaly, the suborder snakes, the family and subfamily vipers, the genus true vipers, the species Caucasian viper.
This snake has many names. One of them is Kaznakov's viper. It is under this name that zoologists define it. So it was called by the Russian researcher A.M. Nikolsky. He was the first to draw up its description in 1909. He named it after the famous naturalist and explorer Kaznakov, who was a model and example for Nikolsky. Also often a snake is found under the name of a chess viper. This is due to the checkerboard pattern on the body of the viper.
Video: Caucasian viper
Snakes are considered very ancient creatures. The first reptiles appeared on our planet from 200 to 250 million years ago. Scientists believe that they appeared in the Triassic period, and are the same age as dinosaurs. The first snakes had limbs. However, a large number of enemies forced them to hide in the ground. The limbs created great difficulties, therefore, subsequently, in the process of evolution, the forelimbs disappeared. The hind limbs remained, however, over time they became much smaller and became like small claws that are located at the base of the tail part of the body.
The snake finally lost its limbs about 70-80 million years ago. Many scientists have also suggested that the ancestors of snakes were large lizards, presumably geckos. Among all the reptiles that exist on earth, they have the maximum resemblance to snakes. In the process of evolution, snakes were divided into species and spread to different parts of the world. Viper snakes number about 50-60 species.
Appearance and features
This snake has the brightest and most recognizable appearance among all the vipers that live on the territory of the Russian Federation. The head, like that of other representatives of this family, is wider than the body and somewhat flattened.
The snake belongs to the category of medium-sized reptiles. In length reaches about 40-70 centimeters. This species of reptiles has pronounced sexual dimorphism. Males significantly outnumber females in body size. In males, there is also a smoother transition from the head to the neck region. The long body smoothly flows into a narrow, short tail.
The Caucasian viper has quite developed and powerful lungs, which, together with wide nostrils located at the bottom of the nasal shield, the reptile emits a terrifying hiss that resembles the sound of a punctured ball.
Outwardly, the viper is very similar to the snake. However, it differs from it in the absence of yellow spots on the lateral surfaces of the head, a vertical pupil. Pupils have the ability to narrow and expand, filling almost the entire eye. Another distinguishing feature of the viper from the snake is the presence of poisonous fangs in the mouth. The length of the fangs of the viper is about 3-4 centimeters.
The Caucasian viper, depending on the region of habitat, may have a different color. The snakes that live in the forest area have a muted, gray color that is almost invisible in the foliage. Snakes that live in mountainous areas are darker, almost black. Reptiles that live on the plains are brighter in color and may have orange or deep red skin tones. Some individuals may have a stripe of red or orange that runs through the entire body.
The older the snake, the more colored elements it has on its skin. They randomly cover certain areas of the skin, giving the impression of a checkerboard pattern.
Where does the Caucasian viper live?
The habitat is quite common.
Reptile geographic regions:
- North America;
- South America;
- Greater Caucasus;
- some regions of Turkey;
- New Zealand;
This type of snake can live in almost all regions of the earth, regardless of climatic conditions. To date, the chess viper is a rather rare snake, its habitat is narrowing every year. The viper prefers to crawl into mountainous areas, however, to a height of more than 900 meters above sea level.
The viper can be found almost everywhere – on the territory of forests, on plains, ravines, near water bodies. Very often, a snake can hide in thickets of blackberry bushes, in fields in haystacks or mowed grass. Often, vipers are found in close proximity to human settlements. In this case, such a neighborhood is dangerous for both sides – both for humans and for the most poisonous snake. If a person finds a snake near his house or garden, he will definitely try to destroy it. The snake is very dangerous due to the presence of poison, which can lead to death or the development of serious complications in humans.
What does the Caucasian viper eat?
The viper is a poisonous reptile, hence a predator. The main food source is rodents and small invertebrates. The snake is a skilled hunter. She prefers to hunt at night. The snake hides in ambush and waits patiently. When the victim approaches as close as possible, she rushes at her with lightning speed and plunges her fangs with a poisonous secret. The victim dies within minutes. After that, the chess viper begins eating, swallowing the prey whole. The digestion process takes several days.
What is the food base:
- small rodents;
- small birds;
- various types of insects – locusts , beetles, caterpillars, butterflies.
The Caucasian viper is distinguished by simply brutal appetite. She can eat many times her weight. For this reason, she has to spend a huge amount of time in ambush waiting for prey.
The tool for successful hunting is a well-developed sense of smell. The main tool for hunting is a forked tongue, which the snake constantly sticks out. The reptile slowly crawls along the trail. With her tongue, she lightly touches the surface of the earth where the victim passed. Then she places the ends of the tongue in Jacobson's organ, which is located in the region of the upper palate. Next, the received information is processed, which allows the snakes to determine as accurately as possible how far the victim is and what size it is.
The chess viper has a very complex poisonous apparatus. It includes sharp poisonous teeth and glands that produce a super-powerful poisonous secret. The teeth are located on a short maxillary bone. Due to this structure of the oral apparatus, the upper jaw opens almost 90 degrees, while the teeth stand in a vertical position. Viper venom is highly toxic. It causes extremely painful sensations, swelling and redness of the bite site. The poison immediately enters the lymph nodes and spreads throughout the body, destroying red blood cells.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
The viper is poisonous snake. She tends to lead a single life, or in a pair. Leads a predominantly nocturnal lifestyle. During the day, it mostly rests in a secluded place. At nightfall, he goes hunting. Vipers spend a significant part of their time searching for and catching food.
This type of reptile leads a territorial way of life. A single snake, or a pair, zealously defends its territory from uninvited guests. They spend the winter in rock crevices or in burrows. Many snake species die during the winter season. But vipers are quite calmly waiting out the cold.
An interesting fact: As a shelter for the winter period, Caucasian vipers choose mainly burrows or crevices located at a depth of 2 meters or more. Thus, these places are located below the freezing level of the soil, which makes it possible to withstand cold and severe frosts quite calmly.
The Caucasian viper has a large number of enemies in natural conditions. Therefore, she is extremely careful and chooses her hiding place very carefully.
Social structure and reproduction
Mating season for snakes begins with the onset of spring.
Interesting fact: This type of viper does not lay eggs, like other snakes, but gives birth to mature offspring. The formation of eggs and the hatching of their young takes place inside. Viable and fully formed individuals are born.
The period of birth of offspring falls at the end of summer or the beginning of autumn. One viper can give birth to 7 to 12 cubs at a time. The process of birth occurs in a rather unusual way. The female wraps around the tree, leaving the tail part of the canopy, and literally throws her cubs to the ground. The small snakes that were born reach 10-13 centimeters in length. Most often, small snakes are light gray or light brown in color with a pattern characteristic of this type of snake. After birth, they immediately molt. In the future, molting occurs on average twice a month.
Vipers that live in mountainous areas bring offspring once every two to three years. Females of the chess viper do not differ in particular attachment to their offspring. On the second day after the birth of offspring, small snakes crawl in different directions.
Natural enemies of Caucasian vipers
Despite the fact that the chess viper is considered dangerous and very poisonous, it has many enemies in its natural habitat.
Enemies of the Caucasian viper in the wild:
- wild boars;
- some types of large feathered predators – owls, herons, storks, eagles;
It is noteworthy that hedgehogs do not eat dangerous, poisonous snakes, but simply fight with them . In most cases, it is the hedgehogs that defeat the insidious poisonous reptiles. Surprisingly, toxic snake venom also does not have any detrimental effect on wild boars.
The enemies of chess snakes should also include a person. Humans hunt snakes for valuable snake skin, meat, and toxin. In alternative medicine in many countries, in particular, in the countries of East Asia, a large number of all kinds of ointments, lotions, creams are made on the basis of snake venom. It is also widely used to make antidotes.
In many countries, the meat of poisonous snakes is considered a very rare and incredibly expensive delicacy. Many gourmets of Eastern countries prefer to eat dried meat of the Caucasian, or chess viper.
Population and species status
The number of dangerous reptiles is constantly decreasing. The main reason for this situation is the development of more and more territories by man. This forces snakes to climb farther and farther from human possessions, their habitat is rapidly shrinking. Chess vipers tend to settle near human settlements. This provokes a person to exterminate snakes. Many reptiles die under the wheels of cars and agricultural machinery.
The situation is aggravated by the fact that reptiles rarely give birth. In addition, human activities that provoke the displacement of snakes from their territory contribute to their death. These are territorial reptiles, which are very difficult to settle down in a foreign, unfamiliar territory.
The lack of food supply also contributes to the decrease in the number. Chess vipers need a lot of food. Not all habitats of these reptiles have a sufficient amount of food supply. People exterminate rodents as pests of agricultural crops. It also contributes to population decline. To date, scientists and researchers cannot determine the approximate number of populations.
Conservation of Caucasian vipers
To preserve the species and increase the number of individuals, this type of reptile is listed in the Red Book. It is protected on the territory of the Caucasian Reserve, as well as within the Ritsa and Kinshire national parks. These measures made it possible to somewhat reduce the trend towards a rapid decline in the number of populations. However, these measures are not enough to preserve the species.
Explanatory work is being carried out with the population of the regions where the chess viper lives about the rules of behavior when meeting with a poisonous snake. People do not always know how to behave if a viper is on the way. She never attacks a human first. Rather, she will hasten to take refuge in a safe place. Therefore, do not show aggression, do not make sudden movements. In some regions, hunting for reptiles is prohibited by law, regardless of the purpose.
The leadership of some countries is developing special programs aimed at creating special protected areas to increase the number of individuals. The Caucasian viper is a very rare snake today. Unfortunately, the number of individuals is constantly decreasing. This leads to the fact that the species is on the verge of extinction.