- Common names: rhombic night adder, demon night adder, Cape night adder, more.
is a venomous viper species
found in subsaharan Africa
. No subspecies are currently recognized.
With an average length is 60 cm, this is the largest member of the genus. The reported maximum length is 93 cm for a male collected in eastern Zimbabwe
The head has a snout that relatively blunt (more rounded that other members of this genus), on the sides of which the nostrils are positioned. The circumorbital ring consists of 2-3 preoculars, 1-2 postoculars, and 1-2 suboculars that separate the eye from the supralabials. The temporal scales usually number 2+3, sometimes 2+4, but very rarely 2+2 or 3+3. There are 6 supralabial scales, very rarely 7. The sublabial scales usually number 7 or 10, rarely 8 and very rarely 11, 12 or 13. The first 3-4 sublabials are in contact with the chin shields. The posterior chin shields are small and often indistinguishable from the gulars.
At midbody there are 15-21 rows of dorsal scales that are moderately keeled and have a satiny texture. The ventral scales number 120-166, the subcaudals 15-36.
The color pattern consists of a ground color that is usually some shade of brown (possibly pinkish of grayish-brown), but occasionally olive green. This is overlaid with a pattern of 20-30 rhombic blotches that have pale edges, as well as a sprinkling of black scales and oblique black bars on the sides. Northern populations may be patternless, making them difficult to identify, while in others the pale edges may be missing, the rhombic blotches may be a darker color, or there may even be a dark brown vertebral stripe. The head has a characteristic V-shaped mark that may be solid black, or brown with a black outline.
Rhombic night adder, demon night adder, Cape night adder, African night adder, Cape viper.
Savannas of subsaharan Africa
east to Sudan
, south through Tanzania
, DR Congo
, northern Botswana
, and eastern South Africa
to Riverdale in the Western Cape Province
. No type locality
This is an active species that can often move relatively quickly: up to an estimated speed of 92 cm per second. They are usually found on the ground, but have no trouble climbing or swimming. They are largely nocturnal, but are often seen basking in the early morning or late afternoon. However, Harper (1963) reported collecting a dozen specimens that were all active during the heat of the day.
Most specimens are docile and give no office, seldom attempting to bite unless severely provoked. FitzSimons is quoted in Pitman (1938) as saying that that, in captivity, they "become so tame that you may allow them to creep, climb and slither round your neck and inside your garments." Others, however, are more temperamental.
When seriously disturbed, they will put on a "ferocious" threat display that includes coiling up, inflating the body (making the dark markings stand out), hissing and puffing loudly, flattening the anterior portion of the body, and striking franticly. They may also flatten the neck and move forward with the tongue extended, much like a small cobra. Striking is done with such vigor that small specimens may lift themselves off the ground entirely.
The diet consists mainly of toads, but it also includes frogs and small mammals.
Femailes produce an average clutch of two dozen eggs that require a lengthy incubation period of approximately four months. The hatchlings are 10-12.5 cm in length and feed on tiny frogs and toads.
The few documented bites involved pain and minor swelling with minimal necrosis. These symptoms usually disappear within 2-3 days. There have been no modern well-documented cases to back up earlier claims of fatalities due to bites from this species. Venom yield has varied from 20-30 mg to 300 mg, but the venom toxicity is low with LD50
values of 10.8, 14.6, >16.0 mg/kg IV
and 15 mg/kg SC