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- Eat insects, mammals, frogs
- Consume 2 adult rats every two weeks in managed care (Gumprecht et al 2002)
- Strike rat mid body
- Lift rat off the ground until limp
- Eat rat head first
- Drink water (Gumprecht et al 2002)
- Terrestrial ambush predators (Green 1999)
- Wait in ambush along trails used by mammals, especially rodents
- May use chemoreceptors to detect suitable places to wait for prey.
- Bushmasters in central and South America are similar ambush predators
- Many species of pit vipers use white or light colored tail-tips to actively attract potential prey (Heatwole & Davison 1976)
- Most often this behavior only found in juveniles (Green 1999)
- Feeding behavior in wild has not been reported in Mangshan pit vipers, but they do have white tipped tails, even as adults
- In a study of venom composition and dietary choices for some pit vipers (Daltry et al. 1996):
- Venom chemistry is genetically controlled
- Geographic variation in venoms reflects "natural selection for feeding on local prey"
- Small, isolated populations, however, may not be influenced by this venom-diet association (Daltry et al. 1997
- Viperids use a strike and release strategy for hunting (Hayes et al. 2002)
- Tounge-flicking search behavior (using chemo receptors) is used to track prey after a strike (O'Connell et al 1982)
- Even viperids born in managed care (that haven't faced live prey) exhibit this tongue-flicking behavior (O'Connell et al 1982)
- Long fangs allow toxins to penetrate deeply into prey (Pough & Groves 1983) (Daltry et al. 1997)
- Toxins kill prey and also help snake digest prey
- Toxins cause breakdown of proteins in muscles and organs
- Venom toxins needed for digestion because prey consumed is relatively large
Two Senses for "Seeing"
The infrared-sensitive facial organs of pit vipers help them detect body heat of mammal prey.
Can you find the pit organ? Hint: Look between the snake's eye and its nostril.
Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.
Chen (1990), translated in David & Tong (1997)
Daltry et al. (1997)
Gumprecht et al. (2002)
Hayes et al. (2002)
O'Connell et al. (1982)
Pough & Groves (1983)
SDZWA Library Links
Fact Sheet Index
Fact sheet index, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Home page, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Email the librarians at firstname.lastname@example.org