Bitis atropos (Berg adder, Cape mountain adder)

Bergadder [Afrikaans]; iRamba lamatye [Xhosa]; Qwaane [South Sotho]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Lepidosauromorpha > Lepidosauria > Squamata > Serpentes (snakes) > Family: Viperidae > Genus: Bitis

Bitis atropos (Berg adder, Cape mountain adder), Western Cape [K.Hopkins, G.J. Measey and K.A. Tolley from SARCA Virtual Museum]

Bitis atropos (Berg adder, Cape mountain adder), Mpumalanga [C. Cleminson from SARCA Virtual Museum]


It can be identified by having a triangular head that is distinct from the body, a lack of Puff-adder-like chevron markings and its practice striking even when a threat is out of range. This adder species has an average length of 30 cm but may reach 60 cm in length. This adder species is only active during the day.

Distribution and habitat

The Berg adder is found in the Western Cape (were it is found at sea level), Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Drakensburg and the eastern border of Zimbabwe. Its preferred habitat is mountain fynbos, montane grassland and sourveld.


Primarily feeds on lizards but also known to eat rodents and rain frogs. Juveniles, however only eat amphibians (e.g. frogs and toads)

Predators, parasites and disease

Fed on by birds of prey and other snakes.


Viviparous (gives birth to live young) and produces between 8 and 15 young in March or April


Can live for up to 15 years.

Medical importance

Unlike other adders, the Berg adder has neurotoxic venom which although non-lethal is still serious. Although Berg adder bites are common, an antivenom is not required or even manufactured.



  • Broadley, D.G. 1983. FitzSimons' Snakes of Southern Africa. Delta Books, Johannesburg.

  • Marais, J. 2004. A Complete Guide to Snakes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishing, Cape Town.


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