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Mexican west coast rattlesnake,
Crotalus basiliscus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Oppel, 1811 [1]

Vipers are a family of venomous snakes, the Viperidae. All have long, hinged fangs that dig deep into their prey and inject venom. There are four subfamilies of the Viperidae currently found.


All Vipers have a pair of long hollow fangs which are used to inject venom from glands found in the back of the upper jaws. Almost all Vipers have ridged scales, a well built body with a short tail, and, because of where the venom glands are found, a triangular-shaped head . Slit-shaped pupils that can open wide to cover most of the eye or close almost completely, which helps them to see in a wide range of light levels. Vipers are nocturnal, meaning that they sleep in the day and wake up at night and they ambush their prey.


Most viper species are ovoviviparous, giving birth to live young, but a few lay eggs. The word "viper" is derived from Latin vivo = "I live" and pario = "I give birth".[2]

Where they live

Viper snakes are found in Americas, Africa, Eurasia. In the Americas they live from southern Canada, through the United States, Mexico, Central America, and into South America. The only type of Viper which lives in the United Kingdom are the Adders. Vipers are not found in Antarctica, Australia, Ireland, Madagascar, Hawaii, many other islands, and north of the Arctic Circle.


Subfamily[3] Taxon author[3] Genera[3] Species[3] Common name Geographic range[1]
Azemiopinae Liem, Marx & Rabb, 1971 1 1 Fea's viper Myanmar, southeastern Tibet across southern China (Fujien, Guangxi, Jiangxi, Kweichow, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang) to northern Vietnam.
Causinae Cope, 1859 1 6 Night adders Subsaharan Africa
Crotalinae Oppel, 1811 18 151 Pit vipers In the Old World from eastern Europe eastward through Asia to Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, peninsular India and Sri Lanka. In the New World from southern Canada southward through Mexico and Central America to southern South America.
Viperinae Oppel, 1811 12 66 True or pitless vipers Europe, Asia and Africa.

Type genus = Vipera—Laurenti, 1768[1]


Vipers are predators, meaning that they eat other animals, their main diet is eating birds (including bird eggs), amphibians, such as frogs and toads, and other small reptiles like lizards and other smaller snakes.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. vol. 1. Herpetologists' League. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
  2. Schuett GW et al 2002. Biology of the Vipers. Eagle Mountain Publishing LC. ISBN 0-9720154-0-X.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Viperidae (TSN {{{ID}}}). Integrated Taxonomic Information System.