Saturday, August 17, 2013

Russell's Viper The Ultimate Viper in Sri Lanka (තිත් පොළගා)

I love Herpetology and Snakes, But i also fears two snakes here in the island. One of them is the Daboia Russelii also known as the Russell's viper with the notorious attitude. in Sinhala we call it "තිත් පොළගා" (Thith Polanga) which means like "the dotted/spotted viper" or "ගැට පොළගා"(Gata Polanga), "ධාර පොළගා"(Dhara Polanga). There are four species in the genus Daboia and in Sri Lanka we have the species Daboia Russelii. This Snake holds the number of second highest snake bites in Sri Lanka, highest number of fatalities and it's the 2nd most venomous viper in the island (Based on LD50 charts , saw scaled viper has more potent venom) as well as the title holder of the longest fangs of any Sri Lankan snake.

Russell's viper is an old world viper ,in other word, a true viper. True vipers doesn't have loreal pits between the eye and nostrils, which means they cannot see through heat vision. Many people might think the large opening in the snout are heat receptors but actually it's the nostril of the russell's viper. Still there is a mystery remains with it's nostril. Many herpertologists described a supernasal sac in this Daboia species, this sac has nerve endings which means it could act as some kind of a sensory organ. This nostril helps people to easily identified the snake as it's the only viper out there with such a big and kinda ugly nostril.

These snakes are widely distributed through out the island from plains to mid hill lands up to 1500m but a common snake in dry zone forests, glass lands and rice fields. Ruesselii can grow up to nearly 5 feet. their babies are around 20-25cm in birth.