Kashmir rock agama | Laudakia tuberculata Gray, 1827

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Russell's viper | Daboia russelii (Shaw and Nodder, 1797)

Russell's viper, Daboia russelii

Russell's viper | Daboia russelii (Shaw and Nodder, 1797)
Russell's viper, scientifically known as Daboia russelii is a venomous species snakes which belongs the family Viperidae. It is also known by various other common names viz., Indian Russell's viper, chain viper, common Russell's viper, scissors snake, chain snakeand seven pacer.The species is an important part of deadly big four venomous species of snakes. Daboia is a monotypic genus of old world venomous species of vipers. 

It is the sole member species (D. russelii) found in Asia (throughout Indian subcontinent). This species named after the name of Scottish herpetologist, Patrick Russell (1726–1805) who described many of Indian snakes first of all, where the name of the genus Daboia is derived from the Urdu word which means“that lies hid”, or “the lurker.The snakes of this species can maximum length of 5.5 ft. having an average body to tail length of 4 ft.

Scientific classification
Kingdom:
Animalia
Phylum:
Chordata
Class:
Reptilia
Order:
Squamata
Suborder:
Serpentes
Family:
Viperidae
Genus:
Daboia
Species:
D. russelii

Apart from being a part of the big four snakes in India, it is also one of the four genera which is responsible for causing the maximum snakebite cases and mortalities amongst all the venomous snakes depending on numerous factors, like their wide distribution, aggressive nature and its inhabitation in highly populated areas. The species is also commonly known as chain viper because of almond shaped hollow spaces of dark brown or blackish color present all over its dorsal body. In spite of this side spots reduced, more round than the top ones and are discontinuous. 

The snakes of this species can be easily recognized by its heavy body structure covered with highly rough keeled scales which are found to be pointed. Instead of this there are three almonds like rows or eye spots are present over whole dorsal body. Dorsal surfaces of the body of these snakes can be observed light to dark grayish-brown, reddish, orange or entirely gray (occasionally) in color. The coloration and body patterns are observed bright in juvenile while it gets fainted in adults or sometimes adults can be spotted pattern less completely. 

On the ventral side the belly of these snakes may vary from white to light yellowish having dark brown to blackish semilunar shaped spots over the edges of ventral scales.Tail is small in this species covered with highly keeled scales which is rough in appearance and pointed towards tip. The ventral sides of the tail scales are darker then ventral scales where sub-caudal are paired. Head of the species is flattened, triangular having a snout pointed upward bearing small keeled scales and are clearly distinguishable from neck. There are two triangular shaped marks on the lateral sides of the head. Upper & lower lips of the species are generally pinkish white in colour. Supra nasals are crescentic having large nostril. These snakes have moderate sized eyes having vertically pupil. These snakes possess the largest fangs of all venomous snakes in Indian subcontinent.
Characters of species observed in Bhopal, MP & Jammu, (J&K)
Characteristics
Range
Full body length
236 mm-1100 mm
Snout-vent length
344 mm-900 mm
Tail length
33 mm-200 mm
**Dorsal scales (A:M:P)
25:27:23-25:29:27
Supra-labial scales
10/10-11/11
Infra-labial scales
12/12-14/14
Anal scale
Single
Ventral scales
156-174
Sub-caudal scales (paired)
41-53
**Note: A- Anterior; M-Midbody; P-Posterior

Russell vipers are widely distributed & can be found in countries viz., India (Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Pondicherry, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Delhi, Kerala, Karnataka, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttrakhand, Bihar, Haryana, Maharashtra, Telangana, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal Odisha, Jammu (J & K), Daman & Diu), Sri Lanka,Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Taiwan, Indonesia and Tibet. It has inhabited the areas ranging from plains to moderate elevation (4800ft. approximately), the species is quite common the plains terrain. Its habitats includesvaried types of forests such as moist deciduous forest, mixed, dry, scrub lands, rainforest, grassland and wetland. Micro habitat comprises the agricultural fields to dry lands, scrubs vegetations with low bushes to rocky terrain with crevices & mounds. Prefer hiding in rat holes, mounds, small caves, crevices, within dense sheet of fallen leaves litters and under fallen wooden holes. 

It is a nocturnal species of snakes highly lethargic, which is usually prefer nights to forage and pursue other activities, but can be seen during day time also while basking. The species is posse’s terrestrial activities and prefer mostly drier environment for basking.Locomotion is slow in these snake species but can strike very quick like Jump thrusting it’s for body towards the target on threatening. This species behave aggressively if cornered, it coils its body (S or 8 like shape) and makes loud pressure cooker or whistle like sound to alarm its enemy.

Russell viper is an ovoviparous species of snakes. Mating in these snakes occurs during the winter months which usually retains till the early months of summer season, during which male combats can be observed to attract & impress the female counter part. Males in this species are usually found smaller than the females. During mating male members of the species coils his tail around the tail of females and keeps vibrate it in intervals to initiate the mating process. The gestation period in these snakes takes six months or even more sometimes. Females of this species give birth to 6-96 young vipers during the summer & monsoon months. It is the only species of viper that can give birth to such a large clutch of young snakes than any other viper of India. Thoughin this big clutch size, some of the individuals generally may born dead or die after some hours of their birth because of lacking of proper nutrition and development during gestation period.At this stage the juveniles of these snakes is measured about 8.5–10.2 inches in total body length (head to tail). 

It mainly feeds on rodents, although it may also take small mammals, other small reptiles,scorpions, birds, frogs and crabs. Juveniles are usually crepuscular which feeds on lizards but as they grow and reach the adult stage they start feeding on the higher animals than lizards(rodents). It is only reason other than deforestation (habitat loss) for which they gets attracted toward human habitation. It is highly venomous species of snakes that contain hemotoxic venom, for most humans a dose of about 40-70 mg is lethal. It has been estimated that venom toxicity and the bite signs may vary in humans within diverse populations and time.

Symptoms of envenomation start with pain at the bitten site, followed by the swelling of nearby boundary around the site of bite. Bleeding is seen common symptom in victims of Russell’s viper bite, particularly in urine, from the gums and even sputum may show signs of blood just after 20 minutes of the bite. Drop in victim’s blood pressure and fall in the heart rate is also common. Blistering appears over the bitten site, increasing through the affected limb in severe cases. Necrosis may occur to the muscles near the bite. Facial swelling and vomiting may also occur in some victims. Renal failure has been observed in 25-30% (approx.) of untreated snake bites. Disseminated intravascular coagulation can also occur in severe envenomations. Utmost & early medical treatment with antivenin can prevent victims from fatality.That is why it is considered to be the most fatal one of the big four group of highly venomous snakes in Indian subcontinent on account of causing thousands of deaths every year. The major threats of the species include road mortality (especial during breeding and monsoon months), killing out of fear by the hand of humans and habitat destruction. 

Literature Cited: 

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Agarwal, I., Mistry, V.K. and Atreya, R. 2010. A preliminary checklist of reptiles of Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, West Kameng district, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Russian Journal of Herpetology, 17 (2): 81-83. 
Belt, P.J., Malhotra, A., Thorpe, R.S., Warrell, D.A. and W├╝ster, W. 1997. Russell’s Viper in Indonesia: snakebite and systematic. Symp. Zool. Soc. Lond., (70), 219-234 
Boulenger, G.A. 1890. The fauna of British India including Ceylon and Burma, Reptilia and Batrachia. London, Taylor and Francis. 
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Manhas, A., Kotwal, A., Wanganeo, R.R. and Wanganeo, A. 2015. Diversity, Threats and Conservation of Herpetofauna in and around Barkatullah University, Bhopal (MP), India. Int. J. Adv. Res. 3: 1546-1553. 
Manhas, A., Raina, R. and Wanganeo, A. 2017. Current Status and Diversity of Ophidians (Reptilia: Squamata: Serpents) in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, Central India. Int. J. Cur. Micro. Appl. sci., 6 (5): 1384-1390. 
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Manhas, A., Raina, R., and Wanganeo, A. 2016. An addition to the reptilian diversity of Barkatullah university campus, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. Int. J. Pure Appl. Zool., 4 (4): 306-309. 
Manhas, A., Raina, R., and Wanganeo, A., 2015. Snakes of the Bhopal district, Madhya Pradesh, India with special reference to road mortality. J. Res. Biol., 5: 1868-1873. 
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Sahi, D.N. 1979. A contribution to the herpetology of Jammu and Kashmir. Ph.D. Thesis submitted to University of Jammu (Unpublished). 
Sahi, D.N. and Duda, P.L. 1985. A checklist and keys to the amphibians and reptiles of Jammu and Kashmir State, India. Bulletin of Chicago Herpetological Society, 20 (3-4): 86-97. 
Sahi, D.N. and Duda, P.L. 1986. Affinities and distribution of amphibians and reptiles of Jammu and Kashmir state (India). Bulletin of Chicago Herpetological Society, 21(3-4): 84-88. 
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Thorpe, R.S., Pook, C.E. and Malhotra, A. 2007. "Phylogeography of the Russell's viper (Daboia russelii) complex in relation to variation in the colour pattern and symptoms of envenoming". Herpetological Journal. 17: 209–18. 
Tunpe, 1987. "Acute and Chronic Pituitary Failure Resembling Sheehan's Syndrome Following Bites by Russell's Viper in Burma". The Lancet. 330 (8562): 763–767. 
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PerSonaLife: Russell's viper | Daboia russelii (Shaw and Nodder, 1797)
Russell's viper | Daboia russelii (Shaw and Nodder, 1797)
Russell's viper, Daboia russelii
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