Bitis caudalis

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Bitis caudalis
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Genus: Bitis
Species: B. caudalis
Binomial name
Bitis caudalis
(A. Smith, 1839)
  • Vipera ocellata A. Smith, 1838
  • Cerastes ocellatus
    — A. Smith, 1838
  • Vipera caudalis A. Smith, 1839[1]
  • Vipera (Cerastes) caudalis
    — A. Smith, 1839
  • Cerastes caudalis
    Gray, 1842
  • Vipera caudalis Jan, 1859
  • V[ipera]. (Cerastes) caudalis — Jan, 1863
  • Bitis caudalis
    Boulenger, 1896
  • Cobra caudalis
    Mertens, 1937
  • Bitis caudalis caudalis
    — Mertens, 1955
  • Bitis caudalis — Branch, 1991[2]

Bitis caudalis is a venomous viper species found in the arid region of southwest Africa, easily distinguished by the presence of a single, large horn-like scale over each eye. No subspecies are currently recognized.[3]

Common names[edit]

The species is commonly known as the horned adder,[4][5] horned puff adder,[6] or horned viper[7]


A short, stout little viper, it usually averages 30–40 cm (12-16 inches) in total length (body + tail). The largest specimen reported is a female from southern Botswana measuring 51.5 cm (20.3 in) total length.[4]

Geographic range[edit]

The snake is found in far arid regions of southwest Africa: southwest Angola, Namibia, across the Kalahari Desert of southern Botswana, into northern Transvaal and southwestern Zimbabwe. In South Africa, it is found from the northern Cape Province south to the Great Karoo.

Its type locality is given as "... the sandy districts north of the Cape Colony..." [South Africa].[2]


Horned adders are mostly found in sparsely vegetated desert and semiarid scrub country.[4]


Bites are assumed to be rare and no epidemiological data are available.[6] Little information is available regarding the toxicity and amount of venom produced. Spawls and Branch (1995) reported an average yield of 85 mg of wet venom,[4] while Christensen (1971) offered an LD50 value of 1.2 mg/kg IV.[8] Other research has found the LD50 to be between 0.15-0.22 mg/kg [9]

Based on this LD50 value, Spawls and Branch (1995) estimated about 300 mg of this venom would be required to kill an adult. They regarded this venom as one of the weakest of the genus,[4] although the tests are conducted solely on mice, which might have a different reaction from humans to the venom. On the other hand, an older report by the U.S. Navy (1965, 1991) suggested it is highly toxic and a number of deaths have occurred as a result.[7][10] According to Broadley and Cock (1975), envenomation symptoms in humans include swelling, severe pain, nausea, vomiting and shock. Blisters and necrotic ulcers may form around the bite site.[6]

The National Antivenom and Vaccine Production Centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, produces a polyvalent antivenin that includes a paraspecific antibody that protects against bites from this species.[11] According to the U.S. Navy (1965, 1991),[7][10] polyvalent antivenins produced by SAMIR and the Pasteur Institute are said to be effective, while Mallow et al. (2003) reported currently available antivenins are of limited effectiveness.[6]

Viljoen et al. (1982) isolated a protein, a neurotoxic phospholipase A2, from the venom, which they called "caudoxin". According to Lee et al. (1983), this is a presynaptic toxin similar to bungarotoxin, but with different binding sites.[6]


A number of authors, including Mertens (1955), use a trinomial to refer to this species, even though no subspecies are recognized.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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. (Bitis caudalis, pp. 498-499.)
  2. ^ a b c McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Volume 1. Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
  3. ^ "Bitis caudalis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 25 July 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d e Spawls S, Branch B. 1995. The Dangerous Snakes of Africa. Ralph Curtis Books. Dubai: Oriental Press. 192 pp. ISBN 0-88359-029-8.
  5. ^ Bitis caudalis at the Reptile Database. Accessed 2 August 2007.
  6. ^ a b c d e 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.
  7. ^ a b c U.S. Navy. 1991. Poisonous Snakes of the World. US Government. New York: Dover Publications Inc. 203 pp. ISBN 0-486-26629-X.
  8. ^ Brown JH. 1973. Toxicology and Pharmacology of Venoms from Poisonous Snakes. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas. 184 pp. LCCCN 73-229. ISBN 0-398-02808-7.
  9. ^ C Y Lee et. al 1982. "Site of action of caudoxin, a neurotoxic phospholipase A2 from the horned puff adder (Bitis caudalis) venom". Toxicon, 20(3), 637-647
  10. ^ a b U.S. Navy. 1965. Poisonous Snakes of the World. US Government. Washington, District of Columbia: US Govt. Printing Office. 212 pp.
  11. ^ Bitis caudalis at Munich AntiVenom INdex (MAVIN). Accessed 21 April 2007.

Further reading[edit]

  • Branch, Bill. 2004. Field Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Sanibel Island, Florida: Ralph Curtis Books. 399 pp. ISBN 0-88359-042-5. (Bitis caudalis, p. 116 + Plate 13.)
  • Broadley DG, Cock EV. 1975. Snakes of Rhodesia. Zimbabwe: Longman Zimbabwe Ltd. 126 pp. ASIN B0006CM8SE.
  • Christensen PA. 1971. The venoms of Central and South Africa. In Bücherl W, Deulofeu V, Buckley EE. Venomous Animals and Their Venoms, Vol. I. New York: Academic Press. pp. 437–462. ISBN 0-12-138902-2.
  • Smith A. 1839. 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 3.] London: Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury. (Smith, Elder and Co., printers.) 48 Plates + unnumbered pages of text. (Vipera caudalis, Plate 7.)
  • Viljoen CC, Botes DP, Kruger H. 1982. Isolation and characterization of the amino acid sequence of caudoxin, a presynaptic acting toxic phospholipase A2 from the venom of the horned puff adder (Bitis caudalis). Toxicon 20 (4): 715-737.

External links[edit]