Bitis arietans (Puff adder)
Poffadder [Afrikaans]; iBululu [Xhosa / Zulu / Ndebele]; iRambi
[Xhosa]; iHobosha [Zulu]; Lerabe, Marabe, Thamaha, Thama-dinkotsane [South Sotho]; Lebolobolo [Tswana & North Sotho]; Vuluvulu [Venda]; Chiva [Shona]; Mhiri [Tsonga]
(animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia >
Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates) > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) >
Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class:
Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) >
(four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota >
Reptilia (reptiles) >
Romeriida > Diapsida > Lepidosauromorpha > Lepidosauria >
Squamata > Serpentes
(snakes) > Family: Viperidae > Genus:
This species is easily identified by its short fat body,
its keeled (rough scaled) body, chevron markings and its loud hissing
when disturbed. The Puff adder averages 90 cm in length but can reach up to 1.5 meters long.
Distribution and habitat
Widespread, with a distribution ranging
throughout Southern Africa, East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It is found
in almost any habitat except for mountain tops, true deserts and dense forest
(although they can climb trees)
Consists mostly of
rodents ( e.g.
rats and mice) but also
includes birds ,
and toads) and lizards
Predators, parasites and disease
The Puff adder is primarily preyed on by Herpistidae (particularly
birds of prey (e.g.
secretary birds and
snake eagles ),
and other snakes. Although people don't prey on them they do kill them.
Puff adders are highly vulnerable to diseases of the mouth and may also be
heavily infested with both internal and external parasites.
Viviparous (gives birth to live young); mating takes place between October and December and the
females give birth to their young between December and April.
Has been known to live for up to 14 years or
Has a powerful though slow acting cytotoxic venom (taking
up 24 hours to take effect), which it delivers through its
particularly long fangs. This snake is dangerous because of its wide
distribution and its habit lying on paths and therefore being stepped on. It is responsible
for many snake bite incidents but few fatalities. Although it is a potential emergency if you are bitten there is an effective
anti venom is available.
Broadley, D.G. 1983. FitzSimons' Snakes of Southern
Africa. Delta Books, Johannesburg.
Marais, J. 2004. A Complete Guide to Snakes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.