June 9, 2020
Best Bitis Buddies
- as seen by -Avishai Shuter
No, this isn’t a two-headed snake.
It’s actually a breeding pair of Ethiopian mountain vipers (Bitis parviocula) getting cozy in a prime basking area in the World of Reptiles at WCS’s Bronx Zoo. These snakes are native to some montane regions of Ethiopia, where they are thought to prey on small mammals and birds, though they have yet to be studied extensively in the wild. They are members of the taxonomic group Viperinae, or “true vipers,” which lack the heat-sensing pits found in their well-known cousins like rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths.
Being in the genus Bitis means that these striking snakes are closely related to other vividly-patterned African snakes like the puff adder (Bitis arietans), Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica), and rhinoceros viper (Bitis nasicornis). All the snakes in this group are venomous predators that give birth to live young.
EDITOR’S NOTE: WCS animal and operations staff are essential during this time. We thank them for their continuing efforts.