Echis – Carpet vipers

Small venomous snakes found in Asia, Africa and Arabia; also named saw-scaled vipers

A genus of venomous vipers commonly known as the saw-scaled vipers, named for the characteristic saw-toothed scales along their bodies. These small but formidable snakes are recognized for their unique behavior of rubbing sections of their body together to produce a sizzling warning sound when threatened. These snakes are unmistakable among their viper relatives, with a sturdy, somewhat stout body and a distinctly shaped pear-like head set apart from the neck.

The saw-scaled viper’s coloration and patterning are quite variable, typically exhibiting various shades of brown, grey, or orange with darker dorsal blotches and lateral markings. This coloration provides them with excellent camouflage against the sandy, rocky, and sometimes vegetated landscapes they inhabit.

Saw-scaled vipers are primarily nocturnal, coming to life at dusk to engage in their nightly activities. As they emerge from their daytime hideouts, they begin the search for food. Their diet is varied and includes insects, small birds, other snakes, lizards, amphibians, and mammals, making them generalist predators within their environments.

Echis species are notable for their reproductive strategies, with some giving live birth and others laying eggs. This variation in reproductive methods shows the adaptability of the genus across different habitats and climatic conditions.

Unfortunately, saw-scaled vipers are known to be one of the most dangerous snakes to humans. They are believed to be responsible for more snakebite incidents and fatalities than any other group of snakes, particularly in parts of Africa. Their small size and cryptic coloration make them easy to overlook, and they often come into contact with people, leading to bites when they are inadvertently stepped on or disturbed.