Puff Adder

The puff adder (Bitis arietans) is a venomous viper species found in savannah and grasslands from Morocco and western Arabia throughout Africa except for the Sahara and rain forest regions. It is responsible for causing the most snakebite fatalities in Africa owing to various factors, such as its wide distribution, frequent occurrence in highly populated regions, and aggressive disposition. This species is probably the most common and widespread snake in Africa.It is found in all habitats except true deserts, rain forests, and (tropical) alpine habitats. It is most often associated with rocky grasslands.


Normally a sluggish species, the puff adder relies on camouflage for protection. Locomotion is primarily rectilinear, using the broad ventral scales in a caterpillar fashion and aided by its own weight for traction. When agitated, it can resort to a typical serpentine movement and move with surprising speed. 


If disturbed, they will hiss loudly and continuously, adopting a tightly coiled defensive posture with the forepart of their body held in a taut "S" shape. At the same time, they may attempt to back away from the threat towards cover. They may strike suddenly and fast, to the side as easily as forwards, before returning quickly to the defensive position, ready to strike again. During a strike, the force of the impact is so strong, and the long fangs penetrate so deeply, those prey items are often killed by the physical trauma alone. The fangs apparently can penetrate soft leather.

They can strike to a distance of about one-third of their body length, but juveniles will launch their entire bodies forwards in the process. These snakes rarely grip their victims, instead of releasing quickly to return to the striking position. Mostly nocturnal, they rarely forage actively, preferring instead to ambush prey as it happens by. Their prey includes mammals, birds, amphibians like frogs and newts, and lizards.


The venom has cytotoxic effects and is one of the most toxic of any vipers based on LD50.In humans, bites from this species can produce severe local and systemic symptoms. Based on the degree and type of local effect, bites can be divided into two symptomatic categories: those with little or no surface extravasation, and those with hemorrhages evident as ecchymosis, bleeding and swelling. In both cases there is severe pain and tenderness, but in the latter there is widespread superficial or deep necrosis and compartment syndrome. Serious bites cause limbs to become immovably flexed as a result of significant hemorrhage or coagulation in the affected muscles. Residual induration, however, is rare and usually these areas completely resolve. Other bite symptoms that may occur in humans include edema, which may become extensive, shock, watery blood oozing from the puncture wounds, nausea and vomiting, subcutaneous bruising, blood blisters that may form rapidly, and a painful swelling of the regional lymph nodes. Swelling usually decreases after a few days, except for the area immediately around the bite site. Hypotension, together with weakness, dizziness and periods of semi- or unconsciousness is also reported.


If not treated carefully, necrosis will spread, causing skin, subcutaneous tissue and muscle to separate from healthy tissue and eventually slough with serous exudate. The slough may be superficial or deep, sometimes down to the bone. Gangrene and secondary infections commonly occurs and can result in loss of digits and limbs. The fatality rate highly depends on the severity of the bites and some other factors. Deaths can be exceptional and probably occur in less than 15% of all untreated cases (usually in 2–4 days from complications following blood volume deficit and disseminated intravascular coagulation), although some reports show that severe envenomations have a 52% mortality rate. Most fatalities are associated with poor clinical management and neglect.


Source : Wikipedia