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What is a Puff Adder?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A puff adder is a large, heavy-bodied viper found in most parts of Africa, except some of the coastal regions. It is of the species Bitis arietans, getting its common name as it hisses or puffs out air when it's startled. The snake may move slowly at most times, but when it's touched in any way it usually strikes very quickly.

Most deaths due to snakebite in Africa are caused by the puff adder. This venomous snake is not aggressive unless provoked, but it tends to inhabit footpaths and areas where humans are likely to step on them by accident. The snake's strike can be so fast that the victim has no time to jump back out of the way. It especially likes to travel on foot paths at night.

The adder doesn't always coil before it strikes, and it usually doesn't even look like it will strike, when suddenly it does in a fast and fierce manner. The puff adder has a solenoglyphous venom delivery system, which means that the venom is delivered into the victim through hollow, hinged fangs. These snakes are known to give a painful bite that causes extreme swelling, and one bite can be fatal. Tissue death, also called necrosis, is common, and if not treated properly, can lead to death.

Most puff adder females have about 20 to 40 live young per litter, but others have set records with litters up to 156 live young. The snakes are born capable of killing. Puff adders are recognizable by their V-shaped markings on background colors with shades of yellow, brown and orange. They adapt well to both the desert and milder, rainy climates.

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Discussion Comments
By anon121307 — On Oct 24, 2010

where does a puff adder live?

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