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Vipers and Pitvipers: Viperidae


Vipers and pitvipers eat mice, rats, and lizards, but they will also feed on birds, frogs, and other animals. A few of the smallest species eat locusts, a type of grasshopper.

Vipers and pitvipers are predators (PREH-dih-ters) and use their venom when hunting prey or sometimes when defending themselves. The venom attacks the blood system of the prey, producing burning pain and other symptoms, and later stopping the heart. A few vipers and pitvipers have venom that also attacks the nervous system. Some species slowly slither along looking for prey animals, but others rely on their camouflage-like colors to hide them until an unsuspecting animal happens by. In either case, the snake lashes out at the prey animal with great speed, opening its mouth to swing down its fangs and biting the animal to inject the venom—all in the blink of an eye. The prey never even sees the snake until it is too late.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesVipers and Pitvipers: Viperidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Vipers, Pitvipers, And People - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE