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Atractaspis engaddensis.jpg
Atractaspis engaddensis
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Lamprophiidae
Subfamily: Atractaspidinae
Genus: Atractaspis
A. Smith, 1849
Common names: burrowing vipers, burrowing asps, mole vipers,[1] more.

Atractaspis is a genus of venomous snakes found in Africa. Currently, 15 species are recognized by ITIS.[2] Others recognize as many as 21 species.[3][4][5] 22 are listed here.

Common names[edit]

Burrowing vipers, burrowing asps, mole vipers, stiletto snakes, side-stabbing snakes. "Side stabbing" refers to the uncommon snake's ability to give a lateral single fan bite while is handled by a human. [1]

Geographic range[edit]

Found mostly in subsaharan Africa, with a limited distribution in the Jordan valley in Israel, Palestine and the Arabian Peninsula.[1]


Venom fangs enormously developed; a few teeth on the palatines, none on the pterygoids; mandibles edentulous anteriorly, with 2 or 3 very small teeth in the middle of the dentary bone. Postfrontal bone absent. Head small, not distinct from neck, covered with large symmetrical shields; nostril between 2 nasals; no loreal; eye minute, with round pupil. Body cylindrical; dorsal scales smooth, without apical pits, in 17 to 37 rows; ventrals rounded. Tail short; subcaudals either single or in two rows.[6]


Species[2][4] Taxon author[2][4] Subspecies.*[2] Common name[1] Geographic range[1]
A. andersonii Boulenger, 1905
A. aterrima Günther, 1863 ———— slender burrowing asp Africa from Senegal and the Gambia east to DR Congo and Uganda.
A. battersbyi de Witte, 1959 ———— Battersby's burrowing asp Africa: Bolobo, on the Congo River basin, DR Congo.
A. bibronii A. Smith, 1849 ———— Bibron's burrowing asp Southern Africa, from central Namibia, east to northern South Africa, north to southeastern DR Congo, eastern Tanzania, coastal Kenya, and extreme southern coastal Somalia.
A. boulengeri Mocquard, 1897 matschiensis
Central African burrowing asp Africa: the forests of the western Congo River basin.
A. coalescens Perret, 1960 ———— black burrowing asp Africa: Bangwa in southwestern Cameroon.
A. congica W. Peters, 1877 leleupi
Congo burrowing asp Africa: from the mouth of the Congo River south to Angola, southeastern DR Congo and northern Zambia.
A. corpulenta (Hallowell, 1854) kivuensis
fat burrowing asp Africa: from Liberia to Ghana and from Nigeria eastwards to northeastern DR Congo.
A. dahomeyensis Bocage, 1887 ———— Dahomey burrowing asp Africa: from southwestern Cameroon, north and west through Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, northwestern Ivory Coast, southwestern Burkina Faso and south-central Mali.
A. duerdeni Gough, 1907 ———— Duerden's burrowing asp Africa in two isolated populations: one in north-central Namibia and one in southeastern Botswana and northern South Africa.
A. engaddensis Haas, 1950 En-Gedi asp Israel: Judean Desert.
A. engdahli Lönnberg & Andersson, 1913 ———— Engdahl's burrowing asp Africa: southern Somalia and the lower Juba Valley northwest into northeastern Kenya.
A. fallax W. Peters, 1867 ————
A. irregularis (J.T. Reinhardt, 1843) angeli
variable burrowing asp Africa: from Liberia to Ghana, from Nigeria east to Uganda, southern Sudan, and western and central Kenya, and south to northeastern Tanzania, DR Congo and northwestern Angola.
A. leucomelas Boulenger, 1895 ———— Ogaden burrowing asp Africa: eastern Ethiopia, northwestern Somalia and Djibouti.
A. magrettii Scortecci, 1928
A. microlepidota Günther, 1866 small-scaled burrowing asp Africa: Senegal, Gambia, southern Mauritania, and western Mali
A. micropholis Günther, 1872
A. phillipsi Barbour, 1913
A. reticulata Sjöstedt, 1896 brieni
reticulate burrowing asp Central Africa: from southern Cameroon, east to eastern DR Congo and south to Angola.
A. scorteccii Parker, 1949 ———— Somali burrowing asp Africa: eastern Ethiopia and northern Somalia.
A. watsoni Boulenger, 1908

*) Not including the nominate subspecies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Spawls S, Branch B (1995). The Dangerous Snakes of Africa: Natural History, Species Directory, Venoms and Snakebite. Ralph Curtis Books. Dubai: Oriental Press. 192 pp. ISBN 0-88359-029-8.
  2. ^ a b c d "Atractaspis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 29 August 2007.
  3. ^ "Atractaspis ". Dahms Tierleben.
  4. ^ a b c "Atractaspis ". The Reptile Database.
  5. ^ "Atractaspis ". Wikispecies.
  6. ^ Boulenger GA (1896). Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History), Volume III., Containing the ... Viperidæ. London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xiv + 727 pp. + Plates I-XXV. (Genus Atractaspis, pp. 510-511, Figure 36).

Further reading[edit]

  • Branch, Bill (2004). Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Third Revised edition, Second impression. Sanibel Island, Florida: Ralph Curtis Books. 399 pp. ISBN 0-88359-042-5. (Genus Atractaspis, pp. 61–62).
  • Smith A (1849). Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa; Consisting Chiefly of Figures and Descriptions of the Objects of Natural History Collected during an Expedition into the Interior of South Africa, in the Years 1834, 1835, and 1836; Fitted out by "The Cape of Good Hope Association for Exploring Central Africa:" Together with a Summary of African Zoology, and an Inquiry into the Geographical Ranges of Species in that Quarter of the Globe. [Volume III. Reptilia]. London: Lords Commissioners of her Majesty's Treasury. (Smith, Elder and Co., printers). 48 plates + unnumbered pages of text. (Atractaspis, new genus).

External links[edit]