Dark Mock Viper

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Dark Mock Viper

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » March 8th, 2011, 8:31 pm

I just found a folder on my hard drive containing pix from past September that I somehow omitted to post here.

This is a Mock Viper, aka "Ruler of the Sands". Psammodynastes pulverulentus papenfussi (can you say that underwater without coming up for air?) is an endemic Taiwanese subspecies of a beast that's widely distributed over South East Asia. I've described the snake and its fiendish deceptiveness elsewhere before, so I'll spare you all the gory details this time around. This one was special inasmuch that it was the dark phase instead of the usual khaki.

After taking a few pix in situ, I took the snake home to photograph it in my faux forest floor studio, and soon I was treated to a nice gaping display, followed by a spot of thanatosis (fake death) that lasted until the next day when I released it back into the wild. Pretty amazing self-control for a little reptile...

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chelonia
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by chelonia » March 8th, 2011, 10:59 pm

Where was my phone call?! :shock:

Great photos btw!
:lol:

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » March 8th, 2011, 11:21 pm

Thanks! If I recall correctly, I didn't even know of your existence at that time :). But despair not, there will be more where that one came from. Come April, I'll take you to the place where I found this one....there's a whole colony of Sand Rulers along that road.

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Viridovipera
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by Viridovipera » March 8th, 2011, 11:23 pm

Very cool! Obviously the predators don't know much about snake dentition or that gape would never have stood up. N00bs :roll:

-Alex

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » March 9th, 2011, 5:53 pm

Are you saying I photographed a toothless snake? :-) Au contraire, these guys have some of the most interesting dentition around - TWO pairs of fangs:

"The dentures of this species are "unusual, because it has grooved rear fangs and front fangs with shallow grooves. This is the only snake known to have fangs in both positions on the maxillary. Harry Greene suggested the front fangs are used to snare hard-scaled, slippery skinks (a group of lizards with a bony plate under each very smooth scale). When Kate Jackson and Thomas Fritts looked at the fangs, however, they found grooves in the front fangs. These grooves were not the deep folds with rounded edges that run the length of the fang as in some rear fanged species. These teeth contained multiple shallow grooves that could allow liquids from the mouth to enter a wound, increase the ability of the fang to penetrate the prey, or facilitate pulling the teeth out of the prey."

(John C. Murphy, Secrets of the Snake Charmer, 2010)

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justinm
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by justinm » March 9th, 2011, 6:13 pm

These are really neat looking snakes. Are they represented in mainland China? I think Kevin Messenger posted some snakes that look similar?

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » March 9th, 2011, 6:31 pm

Yes, they are - in the provinces Fujian, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong, Hainan, Hong Kong

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Viridovipera
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by Viridovipera » March 9th, 2011, 7:02 pm

Wowowow. Thanks for that information Hans! That is absolutely crazy. My question is, why has this only occurred (to my knowledge) in this, relatively random, snake? Very cool!

-Alex

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » March 9th, 2011, 7:20 pm

Why not? Evolution is random, after all. Just take a look at your contemporaries :-)

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Gibson
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Post by Gibson » March 9th, 2011, 8:36 pm

Wow! That's such a cool snake!!! :shock:

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Viridovipera
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by Viridovipera » March 9th, 2011, 10:21 pm

Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:Why not? Evolution is random, after all. Just take a look at your contemporaries :-)


Indeed. But, sometimes traits like these are found in a common ancestor and shared with a few other closely related snakes, rather than only appearing once "randomly." And isn't a bit too "coincidental" that a colubrid that mimics vipers ALSO has enlarged front fangs??? Now that I look more closely at the pictures I can actually see them. Very often I think that only the mutations are really random -- the way they are culled and turn into phenotypes can be stunningly predictable and patterned. This stuff is just too cool.

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Jason Mintzer
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by Jason Mintzer » March 9th, 2011, 10:41 pm

So cool! I love that it has vertical pupils.

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Antonsrkn
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by Antonsrkn » March 9th, 2011, 10:42 pm

Great post, I really love snakes that pretend to be something they're not always fascinating to see. One interesting thing I noticed is that in the beginning it starts off with a spherical pupil which I associate with colubrids then by the time it starts gaping those pupils have turned into vertical cat eye slits like the kind I am used to seeing vipers with. I bet this is merely coincidental and has to do with the lighting and not part of the deception but it adds to the illusion of being a viper.

Notice in the first photo it looks like a harmless colubrid, in the second the transformation is complete and coming across it in a strange land I would assume its a viper of sorts.
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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » March 9th, 2011, 11:23 pm

One interesting thing I noticed is that in the beginning it starts off with a spherical pupil which I associate with colubrids then by the time it starts gaping those pupils have turned into vertical cat eye slits like the kind I am used to seeing vipers with.

You know, I never noticed that. Thanks for the hint (you and Jason)! The first series of pix, where the snake appears slate gray, was taken in the shady forest; the second series under the direct sun. Probably also a reason.

Mourits
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by Mourits » March 10th, 2011, 1:04 am

Amazing snake, and really cool photos!

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Dell Despain
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by Dell Despain » March 10th, 2011, 8:04 am

I'm glad you took the time to post this Hans, very interesting little guy. Love the mouth gaping shots.

-Dell

martian
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by martian » December 1st, 2013, 11:12 pm

Hi all

I'm new to this, but a herp lover and now spending most of my time in Taiwan.

Last week I found a cute dark Mock Viper near XingShan waterfall, where I have seen very big Big Eye Rat Snake before. Locals say they haven't seen the Mock Viper there (but then they claim that Russel's Viper does live there!!!). Anyway, a nice and unusually colourful little snake, feisty at first then very calm.
I nominate the gecko for the smallest ever. I stole him from a bank in Beitou :? ;-)_

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These "slightly" bigger guys I met on Rinca Island in September
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Great to read some interesting and informative posts here :beer:

Martian

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CowBel
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by CowBel » December 3rd, 2013, 4:48 pm

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I made that graphic a couple months ago. They will constrict their pupil ellipse in response to physical stress.

I've been lucky enough to find a few specimens of both subspecies this year.

I'd recommend refraining from free handling them as they do have a nasty venom.

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Dark Mock Viper

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » December 3rd, 2013, 5:59 pm

Thanks, Cowan! Didn't know that!

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