Generic filters
Exact matches only
9:00 am - 6:00 pm

Shy and beautiful

Hello everyone! I would like to tell you a little bit about one of my favorite pit vipers of all-time, the Mangshan Mountain pit viper! This nocturnal snake species is only found in the mountainous regions of Hunan and Guangdong in Southern China. The elevations are 2,620-4,270. So high! They can be found in the subtropical montane forests of these mountains within the thick vegetation along the forest floor or even in limestone caves.

The Mangshan Mountain vipers, also known as the Mangshan iron-head snake, are layered in intricate camouflaging patterns ranging in various shades of green and brown. Since they are known for being so shy and reclusive, their unique color patterns help them blend in so well with their background, you may not see them even when they are sitting right in front of your nose! This cryptic camouflage allows them to hide in that thick vegetation and wait for their prey to come to them. Because they are pit vipers, Mangshan vipers have pits between their eyes and mouth that we can see, but they are not just for show! These pits are the external opening to an extremely sensitive infrared detecting organ allowing them to “see” temperatures and strike prey accurately, even in the dark. That gives them a huge advantage as they prefer to move around and hunt at night. They use these pit sensors to catch animals like frogs, birds, insects, and small mammals. The venom from a Mangshan viper causes blood-clotting and corrodes muscle tissue. This helps aid in the digestion of their freshly caught meal. Yummy in the tummy!

Despite their shy nature, these beautiful snakes can grow very large. Mangshan vipers have been known to easily grow around 6 feet in length and weigh over 10 pounds, making for a very hefty snake. Most pit vipers are viviparous. This means the females give live birth. However, the Mangshan Mountain pit viper is unique, being one of the very few vipers in the entire world to be oviparous! This means they lay eggs. A single female can lay 13-21 eggs at a time and is known to guard the nest diligently until the babies hatch.

Thanks so much for your time!  Be sure to stop by Scaly Slimy Spectacular on your next visit and see these shy and beautiful snakes in their brand-new habitat! I hope you enjoyed learning a few fun facts about these amazing animals!

(Photo: Ash T.)

Sam J.
Keeper III, Herpetology

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl