Trimeresurus flavoviridis

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Trimeresurus flavoviridis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Genus: Trimeresurus
Species: T. flavoviridis
Binomial name
Trimeresurus flavoviridis
(Hallowell, 1861)
  • Bothrops flavoviridis Hallowell, 1861
  • Trimeresurus riukiuanus
    Hilgendorf, 1880
  • T[rimeresurus]. flavoviridis
    Boulenger, 1890
  • Lachesis flavoviridis
    – Boulenger, 1896
  • Trimeresurus flavoviridis tinkhami Gloyd, 1955
  • Trimeresurus flavoviridis flavoviridis Gloyd, 1955

Trimeresurus flavoviridis is a species of venomous pit viper endemic to the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. No subspecies are currently recognized.[2] Local common names include "habu",[3] "Okinawa habu",[4] and "Kume Shima habu".[5]


Mounted specimen at the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Japan.

Growing to an average total length of 4–5 feet (120–150 cm), with a maximum of 7.9 feet (240 cm)[6][dead link], this is the largest member of its genus. It is slenderly built and gracefully proportioned with a large head. The tail, however, is not prehensile. The crown of the head is covered with small scales. T. flavorviridis has a light olive or brown ground color, overlaid with elongated dark green or brownish blotches. The blotches have yellow edges, sometimes contain yellow spots, and frequently fuse to produce wavy stripes. The belly is whitish with dark coloring along the edges.[4]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

T flavoviridis is restricted to the Japanese Ryukyu Islands, including Okinawa and the Amami Islands. The type locality is "Amakarima Island (one of the Loo-Choo group)" (= Keramashima, Ryukyu Islands).[1] It is common on the larger volcanic islands, but not present on the smaller coral islands.[4]

The species is often reported from the transition zone between palm forest and cultivated fields. It may also be found on rock walls and in old tombs and caves.[4]


The species is terrestrial[5] and mostly nocturnal. It often enters homes and other structures in search of rats and mice. Bold and irritable, it can strike quickly and has a long reach.[4]

Unlike most pitvipers, T. flavoviridis is oviparous and lays eggs, rather than bearing live young.[4] Mating takes place in early spring and up to 18 eggs are laid in mid-summer. The hatchlings, which emerge after an incubation period of 5–6 weeks, are 10 inches (25 cm) in length and look the same as the adults.[5]

To reduce the population of T. flavoviridis on the island of Okinawa, the small Asian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus), was introduced in 1910. Although the effects of this introduction have not been studied, in other such cases the negative effects on species of native birds, mammals, and herpetofauna have been a source of concern for wildlife managers.[7]


The incidence of snakebite in the Amami Islands is 2 per 1,000 people, which is considered very high. The venom of this species is of high toxicity, containing cytotoxin and haemorrhagin components,[8] yet the fatality rate is less than 1%.[9][dead link] If a bite victim receives medical care promptly, bites are not life-threatening. However, 6-8% do suffer permanent disability.[4]

LD50 values of 3.1, 4.3, 3.7, 2.7, 3.7, 3.8 mg/kg IV, 5.1 mg/kg IP and 6.0, 3.5-5.0, 4.5 mg/kg SC have been reported for the venom.[10]


A bottle of "habushu". T. flavoviridis has been subject to overhunting for use in traditional liquor-making.

On the island of Okinawa, this species is heavily collected, primarily for use in habu sake (ハブ酒). In this case, the sake is a liquor called awamori (泡盛), alleged to have medicinal properties. The production includes the snakes in the fermentation process and it is sold in bottles that may or may not contain the body of a snake.[11]

See also[edit]

Media related to Protobothrops flavoviridis at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ a b 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).
  2. ^ "Trimeresurus flavoviridis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 25 July 2008. 
  3. ^ Gumprecht A, Tillack F, Orlov NL, Captain A, Ryabov S. 2004. Asian Pitvipers. GeitjeBooks. Berlin. 1st Edition. 368 pp. ISBN 3-937975-00-4.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g U.S. Navy. 1991. Poisonous Snakes of the World. US Govt. New York: Dover Publications Inc. 203 pp. ISBN 0-486-26629-X.
  5. ^ a b c Mehrtens JM. 1987. Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Hays WST, Conant S. 2007. Biology and Impacts of Pacific Island Invasive Species. 1. A Worldwide Review of Effects of the Small Indian Mongoose, Herpestes javanicus (Carnivora: Herpestidae). Pacific Science 61 (1): 3-16.
  8. ^ O'Shea, M. (2008). Venomous snakes of the world. New Holland Publishers. 
  9. ^ According to this report, 8901 snakebites from this snake are reported during 1964-2011 in Okinawa prefecture(Amami excluded). Among those, fatalities are 53. So, fatality rate is around 0.6%.
  10. ^ Brown, JH (1973). Toxicology and Pharmacology of Venoms from Poisonous Snakes. Springfield, Illinois+publisher=Charles C. Thomas. ISBN 0-398-02808-7. 
  11. ^ Okinawa’s potent habu sake packs healthy punch, poisonous snake at the Wayback Machine (archived 27 December 2008)

Further reading[edit]

  • Hallowell, E. 1861. Report upon the Reptilia of the North Pacific Exploring Expedition, under command of Capt. John Rogers, U. S. N. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia 12: 480-510. (Bothrops flavoviridis, pp. 492–493.)

External links[edit]