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Pseudocerastes persicus.jpg
Persian horned viper
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Genus: Pseudocerastes
Boulenger, 1896
Species: P. persicus
Binomial name
Pseudocerastes persicus

  • Cerastes Persicus
    A.M.C. Duméril, Bibron &
    A.H.A. Duméril, 1854
  • Vipera persica Jan, 1859
  • V[ipera]. (Cerastes) persica
    — Jan, 1863
  • Pseudocerastes persicus
    — Boulenger, 1896
  • Pseudocerastes bicornis Wall, 1913
  • Vipera persica persica
    Marx & Rabb, 1965
  • Pseudocerastes persicus persicus Minton, Dowling & Russell, 1968
  • Daboia (Pseudocerastes) persica persica Obst, 1983
  • Pseudocerastes persicus
    Latifi, 1991[1]
Common names: Persian horned viper, false horned viper,[2] more.

Pseudocerastes is a genus of venomous vipers endemic to the Middle East and Asia. It was originally a monotypic genus created in 1896 by Boulenger for the species Pseudocerastes persicus.[3] Due to taxonomic revision and recent discovery, the genus may currently contain as many as three species.

Pseudocerastes are often referred to as false horned vipers because of the horn-like structures above their eyes that are made up of numerous small scales. This is in contrast to the "true" horned viper, Cerastes cerastes, which has similar supraorbital "horns", each consisting of a single elongated scale.[2] Two or three species are currently recognized, namely the spider-tailed horned viper (Pseudocerastes urarachnoides) in addition to others treated as either two distinct species (Pseudocerastes persicus and Pseudocerastes fieldi)[4]., or instead divided into nominate subspecies, as Pseudocerastes persicus persicus and Pseudocerastes persicus fieldi.


Adults averages between 40 to 70 cm (16 to 28 in) in total length (body + tail), with a maximum total length of 108 cm (43 in) being reported. Females are usually larger than males. These snakes can attain a considerable weight relative to their size, with specimens sometimes exceeding 500 g (1.1 lb).[2]

The head is broad, flat, distinct from the neck and covered with small, imbricate scales. The snout is short and rounded. The nostrils are positioned dorsolaterally and have valves. The nasal scale is unbroken. The rostral scale is small and wide. The eyes are small to average in size. There are 15-20 interocular scales and 15-20 circumorbitals. The supraorbital hornlike structure above each eye consists of small, imbricate scales and is also present in juveniles. There are 11-14 supralabials and 13-17 sublabials. 2-4 rows of small scales separate the supralabial scales from the suboculars.[2]

The body is covered with weakly to strongly keeled dorsal scales. On many of these, the keel terminates before the end of the scale and forms a bump. Many others form a point. At midbody, there are 21-25 scale rows, none of them oblique. There are 134-163 ventral scales and 35-50 paired subcaudals. The tail is short.[2]

Common names[edit]

Persian horned viper, false horned viper,[2] Persian horned desert viper,[5] eye-horned viper.[6]

Geographic range[edit]

P. persicus is found in the Sinai of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia, the mountains of Oman, northern and northwestern Iraq, possibly southern Syria, extreme southeastern Turkey, northwestern Azerbaijan, Iran, and Pakistan to the borders of Afghanistan.

The type locality is listed as "Perse" (= Persia).[1]


These snakes are generally rather slow-moving and may employ various methods of locomotion, including sidewinding, serpentine, and rectilinear. These snakes are almost totally nocturnal, only being seen during the day or early evening during colder periods. It is not particularly aggressive, but will hiss loudly when disturbed. It is not capable of sinking into the sand vertically like Cerastes.[2]


Pseudocerastes is oviparous, and sexually mature females lay 11-21 eggs. When produced, these already contain well-developed embryos, each of which can be as much as 8.5 cm (3.3 in) in total length. As a result, they hatch after only 30–32 days at 31 °C and then measure 14.0 to 16.2 cm (5.5 to 6.4 in) in total length. They do well in captivity and are relatively easy to breed.[2][7]


P. persicus venom exhibits strong hemorrhagic activity typical of most vipers. No antivenom is available for bites from this subspecies, although it is reported that a polyvalent antiserum does offer some protection.[2][7]


Species[4] Taxon author[4] Common name Geographic range
P. fieldi K.P. Schmidt, 1930 Field's horned viper Sinai Peninsula, southern Israel, Jordan, extreme northern Saudi Arabia and southwestern Iraq[2]
P. persicus (A.M.C. Duméril, Bibron & A.H.A. Duméril, 1854) Persian horned viper North Iraq, south-east Turkey, Iran, southern Afghanistan, Pakistan and the mountains of Oman[2]

These two subspecies are allopatric.[2]


Some sources elevate P. p. fieldi to species level.[8]

In 2006, Bostanchi, Anderson, Kami and Papenfuss described a new species: P. urarachnoides. It is found in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran and is described as having the most elaborate tail ornamentation of any snake yet described, save for the rattlesnakes, Crotalus and Sistrurus.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 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 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. ^ "Pseudocerastes". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 August 2006.
  4. ^ a b c "Pseudocerastes persicus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2 August 2006.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ U.S. Navy. 1991. Poisonous Snakes of the World. United States Government. New York: Dover Publications Inc. 203 pp. ISBN 0-486-26629-X.
  7. ^ a b Spawls S, Branch B. 1995. The Dangerous Snakes of Africa. Dubai: Ralph Curtis Books. Oriental Press. 192 pp. ISBN 0-88359-029-8.
  8. ^ Pseudocerastes fieldi at the Reptile Database. Accessed 8 September 2007.
  9. ^ Hamid, Bostanchi,; C, Anderson, Steven; Gholi, Kami, Hagi; J, Papenfuss, Theodore (2006). "A new species of Pseudocerastes with elaborate tail ornamentation from Western Iran (Squamata: Viperidae)". Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. 4th series. 57 (14): 443–450.

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. (Genus Pseudocerastes and species Pseudocerastes persicus, p. 501).
  • Duméril A-M-C, Bibron G, Duméril A[HA]. 1854. Erpétologie générale ou histoire naturelle complète des reptiles. Tome septième. Deuxième partie. Comprenant l'histoire des serpents venimeux. (= General Herpetology or Complete Natural History of the Reptiles. Volume 7. Second Part. Containing the [Natural ] History of the Venomous Snakes). Paris: Roret. xii + pp. 781–1536. (Cerastes persicus, pp. 1443–1444).
  • Joger U. 1984. The venomous snakes of the Near and Middle East. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag. 175 pp.
  • Latifi M. 1991. The Snakes of Iran. Second Edition. Oxford, Ohio: Published by the Dept. of the Environment and the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. 156 pp. ISBN 0-916984-22-2.
  • Marx H, Rabb GB. 1965. Relationships and Zoogeography of the Viperine Snakes (Family Viperidae). Fieldiana Zool. 44 (21): 162-206.
  • Mendelssohn H. 1965. On the biology of venomous snakes of Israel. Part II. Israeli Journal of Zoology 14: 185-212.
  • Obst FJ. 1983. Zur Kenntnis der Schlangengattung Vipera. (= On Knowledge of the Snake Genus Vipera). Zool. Abh. staatl. Mus. Tierkunde Dresden 38: 229-235.

External links[edit]