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Bitis atropos

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Bitis atropos
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Subfamily: Viperinae
Genus: Bitis
Species: B. atropos
Binomial name
Bitis atropos
(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Coluber atropos - Linnaeus, 1754
  • [Coluber] Atropos - Linnaeus, 1758
  • Cobra Atropos - Laurenti, 1768
  • Vipera Atropos - Sonnini & Latreille, 1801
  • [Vipera (Echidna)] Atropos - Merrem, 1820
  • Vipera montana - A. Smith, 1826
  • [Echidna] Atropos - Wagler, 1830
  • Clotho [(Bitis)] Atropos - Gray, 1842
  • E[chidna]. ocellata - Tschudi, 1845
  • Calechidna ocellata - Tschudi, 1845
  • Edchidna atropos - Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854
  • Bitis atropos - Günther, 1858
  • V[ipera]. (Echidna) atropos - Jan, 1863
  • Bitis atropos - Boulenger, 1893
  • [Bitis atropos] atropos - FitzSimons, 1959
  • Bitis atropos unicolor - FitzSimons, 1959
  • Bitis atropos atropos - Broadley, 1962
  • Bitis atropos - Carpenter & Furguson, 1977
  • Bitis atropos - Broadley, 1983
  • Viper atropos - Golay et al., 1993
  • Bitis atropos - Golay et al., 1993[1]

Common names: berg adder,[2] Cape mountain adder, mountain adder.[3][4]  
Bitis atropos is a venomous viper species found only in three mountainous regions in southern Africa.[1] It is a small species that is unusual in that its venom includes a major neurotoxin.[2] No subspecies are currently recognized.[5]


The average adult size is 30-40 cm, with some females reaching a maximum 50 cm in the wild and 60 cm in captivity.[2]

Geographic range

Isolated populations in the mountainous areas of southern Africa: the Inyanga Highlands and Chimanimani Mountains of eastern Zimbabwe and nearby Mozambique, in South Africa along the Drakensberg Escarpments in the provinces of Transvaal, western Natal, Lesotho and eastern Free State, and in the southern coastal mountains of western and eastern Cape Province.[1] Spawls & Branch (1995) also mention that in Cape Province, its range extends into the Cape Peninsula.[2]

The type locality given is "America", but this is obviously a mistake. More likely is the Cape of Good Hope, according to FitzSimons (1962).[1]


Occupies a number of different habitats, but prefers relatively cool environments with high levels of precipitation. In the northern part of its range, where the winters are cold and dry and the summers warm and wet, it is therefore restricted to higher elevations: up to 3000 m. Not found below 1500 m in Zimbabwe. Usually associated with mountain slopes and rocky hillsides, but also montane grassland with patches of bushes and shrubs.[2][3]

In the southern part of its range (Cape Province, South Africa), where the winters are cold and wet and the summers warm and dry, it can be found in coastal and mountain heathland as well as small rock outcrops at sea level and grassy areas with bushes with clumps of bushes and shrubs.[2][3]

See also

Cited references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, vol. 1. Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Spawls S, Branch B. 1995. The Dangerous Snakes of Africa. Ralph Curtis Books. Dubai: Oriental Press. 192 pp. ISBN 0-88359-029-8.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Mallow D, Ludwig D, Nilson G. 2003. True Vipers: Natural History and Toxinology of Old World Vipers. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida. 359 pp. ISBN 0-89464-877-2.
  4. Species Bitis atropos at the Species2000 Database
  5. Bitis atropos (TSN 634950) at Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Accessed 1 April 2007.

Other references

  • Broadley DG, Cock EV. 1975. Snakes of Rhodesia. Zimbabwe: Longman Zimbabwe Ltd. 97 pp.
  • Broadley DG. 1990. FitzSimons' Snakes of Southern Africa. Parklands (South Africa): J Ball & AD Donker Publishers. 387 pp.
  • FitzSimons VFM. 1962. Snakes of Southern Africa. Purnell and Sons (S.A.) (Pty.) LTD., Cape Town: Johannesburg. 423 pp.
  • FitzSimons VFM. 1980. A Field Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa. London: Collins Publishers 221 pp.