Viper spider tails • Victoria Shlyakhovaya • Scientific image of the day at Elements • Herpetology

If you do not look very carefully, then in this photo there is a spider sitting on a stone. In fact, an Iranian spider viper is sitting on a stone (Pseudocerastes urarachnoides), endemic to Western Iran. There is no spider on the stone. This is a snake trick to entice birds and lizards to feed on.

The first time I saw this snake on video, I thought it was a montage. The spectacle is amazing. How this is possible is beyond me.

This snake is so incredible and rare that scientists first discovered it in 1968. So they found a snake with a bulbous “tumor” in its tail, even this tumor surrounded by unusually long scales. The scientists could not solve the riddle of the snake, they just decided that the reptile had a pathology or maybe it was sick with something. The snake was attributed to the species of Persian horned viper (Pseudocerastes persicus), the specimen was transferred to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and the snake was forgotten. In 2001, another copy was found. In 2006 alone, a team of Iranian and American scientists announced a new species. Now you will meet: the Iranian spider tail viper or spider snake. It belongs to the family of vipers, genus Pseudo-horns. The genus is known as vipers with false horns. The scales above their eyes are raised so that horns are obtained. specific name scaly comes from the Greek words tail – “tail”, spider – “spider”, οειδής – “similar”.

Viper spider head

But the most amazing thing about the snake is, of course, the tail. The thickening of the tail and the long scales around it create the illusion of a spider. The “Spider” begins to form after birth and will eventually form with the onset of adolescence.

Development of the tail tip in the spider tail viper

The snake is on the rocks and moves its tail in an orbit of eight figures. At the same time, the snake itself is invisible – its camouflage is excellent. The bird, on the other hand, sees a spider running boldly to the surface.

The bird rushes happily to the prey and becomes the dinner itself. Not only birds but also lizards are led to this bay. If a small mammal is tempted, the snake will devour it as well. Large mammals are ignored by the viper. Although it is poisonous, its venom is not enough for a large animal. And for a man. The toy in the tail does not just look like a spider, it looks like a specific spider – trumpet. Salpug birds love.

Interestingly, migratory birds (for example, warblers and warblers) are more often victims of the viper. The local species have already realized what kind of careless spiders they are and have stopped attacking them. In addition, many have stopped catching trumpets. Yes, just in case. Checking if a real saltpuga or a fake is more expensive for yourself. Here, the Solpugs sighed in relief and scattered to the neighborhood to behave badly. Whether one is happy with the trumpet, I do not know, because trumpets are unpleasant animals in every way. They look scary, wild, active, stubborn, they run fast, they jump high, they climb on any surface, hamsters whatever they catch. Even scientists-entomologists come out stealing valuable insect samples from them. Incredibly greedy. If left unchecked, they can become greedy. It is good that an overfilled tube can only burst in the laboratory. Under natural conditions, he will not be able to move fast. Seat – weight loss (after all, wise Nature put a limiter on them). Thank you for not being poisonous. In all the areas where the salt flats live (and more than a thousand species are known), they cause sacred horror to the local population.


But back to our viper. Between its “horns” there are from 16 to 17 scales. There are 15 pairs of subcutaneous scales (the scales below the tail). When describing and identifying snakes, the details of the scaly cover of all parts of the body are taken into account. The scales on the body are thicker than those of other members of the genus. It is bulky and embossed. The snake can inflate its scales due to the work of the skin muscles. That’s why the locals call it Mar-e-pardar (winged snake) or Mar-e-gatch (plaster snake). It lives in places rich in plaster and its color perfectly mimics the color of plaster baked in the sun. The snake moves with both lateral and direct movements. In case of danger it emits a whistle, lifts its head and neck off the ground and, without warning, strikes lightning.

Invisible viper

Some other types of snakes can also lure potential prey with a tail movement, but none of them have such a well-made “spider”. Nature can create such creatures that it is simply impossible to believe in their existence, even when you already see them in front of you. It is incredible!

Photo courtesy of, Iran, May 2, 2016.

Victoria Shlyakhovaya

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