Echis carinatus

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Echis carinatus
Saw-scaled Viper (Echis carinatus) Photographed By Shantanu Kuveskar.jpg
Echis carinatus in Mangaon, (Maharashtra, India)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Genus: Echis
Species: E. carinatus
Binomial name
Echis carinatus
(Schneider, 1801)
  • [Pseudoboa] Carinata Schneider, 1801
  • Boa Horatta
    Shaw, 1802
  • Scytale bizonatus
    Daudin, 1803
  • [Vipera (Echis)] carinata
    Merrem, 1820
  • [Echis] zic zac
    Gray, 1825
  • Boa horatta
    — Gray, 1825
  • Echis carinata
    Wagler, 1830
  • Vipera echis
    Schlegel, 1837
  • Echis (Echis) carinata
    — Gray, 1849
  • Echis ziczic
    Gray, 1849
  • V[ipera]. noratta
    Jerdon, 1854
  • V[ipera (Echis)]. carinata
    Jan, 1859
  • Vipera (Echis) superciliosa
    Jan, 1859
  • E[chis]. superciliosa
    — Jan, 1863
  • Vipera Echis Carinata
    Higgins, 1873
  • Echis carinatus
    Boulenger, 1896
  • Echis carinata var. nigrosincta
    Ingoldby, 1923 (nomen nudum)
  • Echis carinatus carinatus
    Constable, 1949
  • Echis carinatus
    Mertens, 1969
  • Echis carinatus
    Latifi, 1978
  • Echis [(Echis)] carinatus carinatus
    Cherlin, 1990
  • Echis carinata carinata
    Das, 1996[1]
Common names: saw-scaled viper,[2] Indian saw-scaled viper, little Indian viper,[3] more.

Echis carinatus is a venomous viper species found in parts of the Middle East and Central Asia, and especially the Indian subcontinent. It is the smallest member of the big four snakes that are responsible for causing the most snakebite cases and deaths, due to various factors including their frequent occurrence in highly populated regions, and their inconspicuous nature.[4] Five subspecies are currently recognized, including the nominate subspecies described here.[5]


E. c. carinatus, southern India.

The size of E. carinatus ranges between 38 and 80 cm (15 and 31 in) in total length (body + tail), but usually no more than 60 cm (24 in).[2]

Head distinct from neck, snout very short and rounded. The nostril between three shields, and head covered with small keeled scales, among which an enlarged supraocular is sometimes present. There are 9-14 interocular scales across the top of the head and 14-21 circumorbital scales. 1-3 rows of scales separate the eye from the supralabials. There are 10-12 supralabials, the fourth usually largest, and 10-13 sublabials.[2][6]


Midbody there are 25-39 rows of dorsal scales that are keeled scales with apical pits; on the flanks, these have serrated keels. There are 143-189 ventral scales that are rounded and cover the full width of the belly. The subcaudals are undivided and number 21-52, and the anal scale is single.[2][6]

The color-pattern consists of a pale buff, grayish, reddish, olive or pale brown ground color, overlaid middorsally with a series of variably colored, but mostly whitish spots, edged with dark brown, and separated by lighter interblotch patches. A series of white bows run dorsolaterally. The top of the head has a whitish cruciform or trident pattern and there is a faint stripe running from the eye to the angle of the jaw. The belly is whitish to pinkish, uniform in color or with brown dots that are either faint or distinct.[2][6]

Common names[edit]

  • English - saw-scaled viper,[2] Indian saw-scaled viper, little Indian viper.[3]
  • Sinhala - vali polonga (වැලි පොලඟා).[7]
  • Odia - Dhuli Naga.[8]
  • Pushtu - phissi.[8]
  • Tamil - surattai pambu.[7] viriyan pamboo, surutai vireyan[8] ( சுருட்டை விரியன் )
  • Telugu - Chinna pinjara, thoti pinjara
  • Sindhi - kuppur, janndi.[8]
  • Marathi - phoorsa ([फुरसं]).[8]
  • Kannada - kallu haavu.[8]
  • Malayalam - anali അണലി[8]
  • Gujarati - tarachha, zeri padkoo (ઝેરી પૈડકુ) udaneyn.[8]
  • Hindi - aphai (अफई)[8]
  • Russian - эфа песчаная[9]
  • Iraqi Arabic- Said Dekhil snake[10] حية سيد دخيل
  • Persian : Jafaree snake مار جعفری
  • Bengali : ফুরসা বোড়া সাপ (Fursa boda sap), কাঁটা-আঁইশা বোড়া, খুঁদে চন্দ্রবোড়া, বোড়া সাপ, বঙ্করাজ।

Geographic range[edit]

E. carinatus is endemic to Asia. On the Indian subcontinent it is found in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan (including Urak near Quetta and Astola Island off the coast of Makran). In the Middle East it is found in Oman, Masirah (Island), eastern United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and southwestern Iran. In Central Asia it is found in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tadzikhistan.

The type locality was not included in the original description by Schneider (1801). However a locality had been given as "Arni" (India) by Russell (1796:3).[1]

There are also reports that this species occurs in Iraq.[11][12] It is found in Thiqar and Kirkuk governorates[13]


Satara, Maharashtra

E. carinatus is found on a range of different substrates, including sand, rock, soft soil and in scrublands. Often found hiding under loose rocks. Specimens have also been found in Balochistan at altitudes of up to 1982 m.[2]


E. carinatus sidewinding.

E. carinatus is mostly crepuscular and nocturnal, although there have been reports of activity during daylight hours.[2] During the daytime they hide in all kinds of places, such as deep mammal burrows, rock fissures and fallen rotted logs. In sandy environments, they may bury themselves leaving only the head exposed. Often, they are most active after rains or on humid nights.[14] This species is often found climbing in bushes and shrubs, sometimes as much as 2 m above the ground. When it rains, up to 80% of the adult population will climb into bushes and trees. Once, it was observed how some 20 individuals had massed on top of a single cactus or small shrub.[2]

E. carinatus is one of the species responsible for causing the most snakebite cases due to their inconspicuous and extremely aggressive nature. Its characteristic pose, a double coil with a figure of eight, with the head poised in the center, permits it to lash out like a released spring.[8]

They move about mainly by sidewinding: a method at which they are considerably proficient and alarmingly quick. They are also capable of other forms of locomotion, but sidewinding seems to be best suited to moving about in their usual sandy habitats. It may also keep them from overheating too quickly, as there are only two points of contact with the hot surface in this form of locomotion.[2]

In the northern parts of its range, these snakes hibernate in winter.[8]


E. carinatus feeds on rodents, lizards, frogs, and a variety of arthropods, such as scorpions, centipedes and large insects.[8] Diet may be varied according to availability of prey. High populations in some areas may be due to this generalist diet.[2]


The population of E. carinatus in India is ovoviviparous. In northern India, mating takes place in the winter with live young being born from April through August. Occasionally, births have also been recorded in other months. A litter usually consists of 3 to 15 young that are 115–152 mm in length.[8] Mallow et al. (2003) mention a maximum litter size of 23.[2]


E. carinatus produces on average about 18 mg of dry venom by weight, with a recorded maximum of 72 mg. It may inject as much as 12 mg, whereas the lethal dose for an adult is estimated to be only 5 mg.[8] Envenomation results in local symptoms as well as severe systemic symptoms that may prove fatal. Local symptoms include swelling and pain, which appear within minutes of a bite. In very bad cases the swelling may extend up the entire affected limb within 12–24 hours and blisters form on the skin.[15] The venom yield from individual specimens varies considerably, as does the quantity injected per bite. The mortality rate from their bites is about 20%, and due to the availability of the anti-venom, deaths are currently quite rare.[8]

Of the more dangerous systemic symptoms, hemorrhage and coagulation defects are the most striking. Hematemesis, melena, hemoptysis, hematuria and epistaxis also occur and may lead to hypovolemic shock. Almost all patients develop oliguria or anuria within a few hours to as late as 6 days post bite. In some cases, kidney dialysis is necessary due to acute renal failure (ARF), but this is not often caused by hypotension. It is more often the result of intravascular hemolysis, which occurs in about half of all cases. In other cases, ARF is often caused by disseminated intravascular coagulation.[15]

In any case, antivenin therapy and intravenous hydration within hours of the bite are vital for survival.[15] At least eight different polyvalent and monovalent antivenins are available against bites from this species.[3]

The venom from this species is used in the manufacture of several drugs. One is called echistatin, which is an anticoagulant. Even though many other snake venoms contain similar toxins, echistatin is not only especially potent, but also simplistic in structure, which makes it easier to replicate. Indeed, it is obtained not only through the purification of whole venom,[16] but also as a product of chemical synthesis.[17][18] Another drug made from E. carinatus venom is called ecarin and is the primary reagent in the ecarin clotting time (ECT) test, which is used to monitor anticoagulation during treatment with hirudin.[19][20] Yet another drug produced from E. carinatus venom is Aggrastat (Tirofiban).

As of November 2016, an antivenom is currently being developed by the Costa Rican Clodomiro Picado Institute, and clinical trial phase in Sri Lanka.[21]


Subspecies[5] Taxon author[5] Common name Geographic range[2]
E. c. astolae Mertens, 1970 Astola saw-scaled viper Pakistan (Astola Island).
E. c. carinatus (Schneider, 1801) South Indian saw-scaled viper[22] Peninsular India.
E. c. multisquamatus Cherlin, 1981 Multiscale saw-scaled viper From Uzbekistan to Iran in the south and east to western Pakistan.
E. c. sinhaleyus Deraniyagala, 1951 Sri Lankan saw-scaled viper Sri Lanka.
E. c. sochureki Stemmler, 1969 Sochurek's saw-scaled viper Southern Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern India, Bangladesh, southern and central Iran, Oman and UAE.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré TA (1999). Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Volume 1. Washington, District of Columbia: Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Mallow D, Ludwig D, Nilson G (2003). True Vipers: Natural History and Toxinology of Old World Vipers. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company. 359 pp. ISBN 0-89464-877-2.
  3. ^ a b c Echis carinatus antivenoms at Munich Antivenom Index. Accessed 13 September 2006.
  4. ^ Whitaker Z (1990). Snakeman. London: Penguin Books Ltd. 192 pp. ISBN 0-14-014308-4.
  5. ^ a b c "Echis carinatus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 1 August 2006. 
  6. ^ a b c Boulenger GA (1890). The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Batrachia. London: Secretary of State for India in Council. (Taylor and Francis, printers). xviii + 541 pp. ("Echis carinata", pp. 422-423, Figure 124.)
  7. ^ a b Checklists of the Snakes of Sri Lanka Archived 2007-10-08 at the Wayback Machine. at the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society. Accessed 15 August 2007.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Daniels JC (2002). The Book of Indian Reptiles and Amphibians. Mumbai: Bombay Natural History Society & Oxford University Press. 252 pp. [151-153]. ISBN 0-19-566099-4.
  9. ^ эфа песчаная at Accessed 21 September 2008.
  10. ^ "متحف التاريخ الطبيعي: أفعى السيد دخيل تسببت في قتل 28 شخصا في الناصرية". Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  11. ^ Snakes and Spiders at Black Five. Accessed 6 January 2007.
  12. ^ Joint Chiefs of Staff Campaign Analysis Report, Snakes & Scorpions in Iraq & Antivenin Sources.pdf Venomous Snakes and Scorpions in Iraq, and Their Antivenin Sources[dead link] at 311th Human Systems Wing, Brooks City-Base Archived 2007-01-19 at the Wayback Machine.. Accessed 6 January 2007.
  13. ^ "Alforat TV Satellite". Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  14. ^ Mehrtens JM (1987). Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
  15. ^ a b c Ali G, Kak M, Kumar M, Bali SK, Tak SI, Hassan G, Wadhwa MB (2004). "Acute renal failure following Echis carinatus (saw–scaled viper) envenomation". Indian J. Nephrol. 14: 177-181. PDF at Indian Medlars Centre. Accessed 12 September 2006.
  16. ^ Echistatin from Echis carinatus[permanent dead link] at Sigma-Aldrich. Accessed 29 September 2006.
  17. ^ Saw-scaled Vipers Archived 2002-03-09 at the Wayback Machine. at Electronic Medical Curriculum Archived 2001-08-03 at the Wayback Machine.. Accessed 29 September 2006.
  18. ^ Garsky VM, Lumma PK, Freidinger RM, Pitzenberger SM, Randall WC, Veber DF, Gould RJ, Friedman PA (1989). "Chemical synthesis of echistatin, a potent inhibitor of platelet aggregation from Echis carinatus: synthesis and biological activity of selected analogs". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 86 (11): 4022–4026. PDF at PubMed Central. Accessed 29 September 2006.
  19. ^ Fabrizio MC (2001). "Use of Ecarin Clotting Time (ECT) with Lepirudin Therapy in Heparin-Induced Thrombocytopenia and Cardiopulmonary Bypass". J. American Soc. Extracorporeal Tech. 33: 117–125. PDF Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine. at Journal of The American Society of ExtraCorporeal Technology. Accessed 5 June 2007.
  20. ^ Textarin/Ecarin Time[permanent dead link] at Specialty Laboratories. Accessed 5 June 2007.
  21. ^ Rodrigo M (2016). Trials to start for home-grown anti-venom. Available at:
  22. ^ Checklist of Indian Snakes with English Common Names [1] at University of Texas. Accessed 22 October 2006.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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. (Echis carinatus, pp. 505–507).
  • "Echis carinatus ". The Reptile Database. (
  • Das I (2002). A Photographic Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of India. Sanibel Island, Florida: Ralph Curtis Books. 144 pp. ISBN 0-88359-056-5. (Echis carinatus, p. 61).
  • Hughes B (1976). "Notes on African carpet vipers, Echis carinatus, Echis leucogaster and Echis ocellatus (Viperidae, Serpentes)". Rev. suisse Zool. 83 (2): 359-371.
  • Schneider JG (1801). Historiae Amphibiorum naturalis et literariae Fasciculus Secundus continens Crocodilos, Scincos, Chamaesauras, Boas, Pseudoboas, Elapes, Angues, Amphisbaenas et Caecilias. Jena: F. Frommann. vi + 374 pp. + Plates I-II. (Pseudoboa carinata, new species, pp. 285–286). (in Latin).
  • Smith MA (1943). The Fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma, Including the Whole of the Indo-Chinese Sub-region. Reptilia and Amphibia. Vol. III.—Serpentes. London: Secretary of State for India. (Taylor and Francis, printers). xii + 583 pp. (Echis carinatus, pp. 487–490, Figure 154).
  • Wall F (1921). Ophidia Taprobanica or the Snakes of Ceylon. Colombo, Ceylon [Sri Lanka]: Colombo Museum. (HR Cottle, Government Printer). xxii + 581 pp. (Echis carinatus, pp. 531–546, Figures 93-95).

External links[edit]