Most people don’t believe in dragons…they’re mythical creatures after all. But one snake might have you second-guessing that belief. The spiny bush viper looks like something of a fantasy world, but it’s a real snake that’s alive today!
Their colorful, pointed scales and large eyes with elliptical pupils make them look eerily similar to baby fire-breathing dragons. Spiny bush vipers, or Atheris hispida, are native to central Africa. According to ThoughtCo., their name is derived from two Greek words meaning “hairy” and “tailed”.
And while these snakes don’t actually breathe fire, they do pose a similar threat – they’re venomous. Despite being a smaller snake, only growing up to 29 inches in length, spiny bush vipers can be quite dangerous to even larger animals and humans.
Their venom is neurotoxic. According to News Medical, this means that a bite from one can cause damage to the brain or peripheral nervous system of the victim. iNaturalist further explains that a bite from one of these snakes could be fatal to humans and has historically caused “severe hemorrhaging of internal organs.”
These dragon-looking, nocturnal snakes can be found in specific rainforests, woodlands, and swamps in Central and East Africa. According to iNaturalist, they’re often found in those environments “basking on top of flowers and terminal leaves.”
As if their dangerous venom weren’t enough, these bush vipers are known to hang from trees and wait patiently to ambush their prey. According to BushViper.info, they mainly hunt from a hanging position and eat primarily “frogs, lizards, small rodents and even other small snakes.”
Spiny bush vipers mate and give birth to up to 12 babies at a time, according to iNaturalist. But what’s really unique about these snakes is that, according to ThoughtCo., they give birth to live babies – not eggs!
There’s still a lot to learn about these snakes. Because of their remote locations and nature, they tend to avoid humans as much as possible. And because of their potentially fatal venom, it’s probably best that humans try to avoid them too.
Who knows, perhaps these elusive snakes account for any dragon sightings in Africa!
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