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Sisistrus miliaris miliaris.jpg
Pygmy rattlesnake, S. miliarius.
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Genus: Sistrurus
Garman, 1884
Sistrurus sp. distribution.png
Common names: ground rattlesnakes, pygmy rattlesnakes, massasaugas.[2]

Sistrurus is a genus of venomous pit vipers found in Canada, the United States and Mexico.[1] The name is a Latinized form of the Greek word for "tail rattler" (Σείστρουρος, Seistrouros) and shares its root with the ancient Egyptian musical instrument, the sistrum, a type of rattle[citation needed]. Three species are currently recognized.[3]


Sistrurus species differ from the larger rattlesnakes of the genus Crotalus in a number of ways. They are smaller in size, but also their scalation is different: Sistrurus species have nine large head plates (same as Agkistrodon), whereas with Crotalus (and almost all other viperids) the head is mostly covered with a large number of smaller scales. Sistrurus species have a relatively small rattle that produces more of a high-pitched, buzzing sound than a rattle, like Crotalus.

Geographic range[edit]

Found in southeastern Canada, the eastern and southeastern United States, as well as isolated populations in northern and central Mexico.[1]


Although bites from Sistrurus species are regarded as less dangerous to humans than those from Crotalus rattlesnakes, primarily due to their lower venom yield, every venomous snake bite should be considered serious and prompt medical treatment should always be sought.


Image[3] Species[3] Taxon author[3] Subsp.[3] Common name Geographic range[1]
Sistrurus catenatus.jpg S. catenatus (Rafinesque, 1818) 3 massasauga North America from southeastern Ontario (Canada) and western New York southwest to southeastern Arizona (USA) and northern Tamaulipas (Mexico). In Mexico, isolated population exist in southern Nuevo León and north-central Coahuila. It occurs in various habitats ranging from swamps and marshes to grasslands, usually below 1,500 m (4,900 ft) altitude.
Sistrurus miliarius miliarius rote Zwergklapperschlange.jpg S. miliarius (Linnaeus, 1766) 3 pygmy rattlesnake The southeastern United States from eastern and southern North Carolina southward through peninsular Florida and westward to Oklahoma and eastern Texas. It occurs in flatwoods, sandhills, mixed forests, floodplains and around marshes and lakes.
S. ravus (Cope, 1865) 3 Mexican pygmy rattlesnake The mountains of central and southern Mexico, west of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in the southeastern part of the Mexican Plateau, in the highlands of Morelos, Tlaxcala, Puebla, Veracruz, Oaxaca and the Sierra Madre del Sur in Guerrero.

Type species.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e 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. ^ Wright AH, Wright AA. 1957. Handbook of Snakes. Comstock Publishing Associates. (7th printing, 1985). 1105 pp. ISBN 0-8014-0463-0.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Sistrurus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 4 November 2006. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Hubbs, Brian and Brendan O'Connor. 2012. A Guide to the Rattlesnakes and other Venomous Serpents of the United States. Tricolor Books. Tempe, Arizona. 129 pp. ISBN 978-0-9754641-3-7.

External links[edit]