The Curious False Viper

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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The Curious False Viper

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » July 7th, 2010, 9:39 pm

Apart from the real habu shown in Monday's post, last Saturday night also produced a nice fake one for us. Locally known by the name "false habu", Macropisthodon r. rudis is a highly interesting snake. It mimics the real Taiwan habu (Protobothrops mucrosquamatus) not only through color and patterns, but also by morphing its oval head into a mean-looking triangle when angry or afraid. It's also mildly venomous, i. e. rear-fanged. Not lethal, mind you (although Bryan G. Fry considers M. rudis, the Mainland subspecies, the most dangerous Asian colubrid), but powerful enough to create painful swelling and dizziness.

However, not all of them are to be handled with care; different individuals show distinctive differences in disposition. Some flatten their bodies and spread their head as soon as you get close, and won't let up until you leave again, but others are positively docile and can be safely handled. Of course, it's always best to let other people do the handling, so that's what I opted for when we found this adult specimen last Saturday. It quickly became clear that it was one of the mellower individuals, and my buddy Ah-huo handled and posed it with out a hitch. M. rudis' diet is also quite peculiar: it specializes in toads, as it's one of the few snakes here that have found a way to deal with the anurans' poison glands.

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Posing the dragon
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Who says herping isn't an Olympic discipline?
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Here's a collection of juveniles I photographed last year but haven't shown yet, so I'll take this opportunity to round out the post. I found a very young one Tuesday afternoon (M. r. rudisis cathemeral, i.e. 24/7urnal) and took it home for a later photo session, alas, yesterday morning it lay dead in his tank, for no apparent reason....:-(

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moloch
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by moloch » July 7th, 2010, 10:42 pm

Excellent, Hans. They certainly do look viper like. Do they inject on a quick strike or do they have to chew for awhile to deliver their venom? I like your approach to handling the dangerous species! I find that to be the safest as well. ;-)


Regards,
David

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xxxHERPERxxx
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by xxxHERPERxxx » July 8th, 2010, 5:59 am

That accually a very beautiful snake! I love the contrast between the dorsum and venter, very intresting. I've noticed all the specialized diet species are all unique in appearance.

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ALT
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by ALT » July 8th, 2010, 12:11 pm

Love those little guys! Thanks for posting :)

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Jason Mintzer
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by Jason Mintzer » July 8th, 2010, 12:29 pm

Cool snake :beer: Thanks

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Viridovipera
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by Viridovipera » July 8th, 2010, 1:00 pm

Awesome post Hans, thanks for sharing the story!

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Viridovipera
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by Viridovipera » July 8th, 2010, 1:01 pm

Awesome post Hans, thanks for sharing the story! I always imagined those snakes to be fatter and larger when I saw pictures in field guides. It was really cool to see them with humans for scale. Thanks Hans!

(sorry for the double post. I guess I hit "back" a bit too late)

-Alex

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monklet
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by monklet » July 8th, 2010, 3:40 pm

Always good stuff Hans, but being the etymology buff that you are I'm surprised you didn't enlighten us on the intriguing generic name - Macropisthodon :?: Something about a big tooth or groove therein I'm guessing?

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Warren
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by Warren » July 8th, 2010, 4:58 pm

dear mr twoton, very nice snakes. perhaps you could provide a map and gps coordinates to the nest. i would like to study these animals in my native Germany. i will only require 200 specimens every month. we are brothers after all!

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » July 8th, 2010, 5:28 pm

Thanks for the nice words, muchacho(a?)s!

David, this species almost never snaps at humans, and when it does, it's just a little warning nip, not even an attempt to properly bite.
monklet wrote:Always good stuff Hans, but being the etymology buff that you are I'm surprised you didn't enlighten us on the intriguing generic name - Macropisthodon :?: Something about a big tooth or groove therein I'm guessing?
Sorry about that - here goes (from http://www.snakesoftaiwan.com):

Macropisthodon; macro means "large", opisthodon means "rear tooth", referring to the large fangs in the rear of the mouth.

rudis is Latin for "rough, crude, unlearned".

The Chinese name 擬龜殼花 (ni3gui1ke3hua1) means "False Taiwan Habu", referring to the sympatric pitviper Protobothrops mucrosquamatus which it appears to mimic.


Warren, can you send me some of that obviously quite excellent Canadian homegrown? :mrgreen:

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monklet
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by monklet » July 8th, 2010, 5:49 pm

Dang, shoulda gone right too the source, SnakesOfTaiwan.com ;) Thanks Hans, sorry for the touble.

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John Martin
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by John Martin » July 8th, 2010, 9:44 pm

Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote: Warren, can you send me some of that obviously quite excellent Canadian homegrown? :mrgreen:
I'll have some of what Warren's having too! :thumb: :lol:

Paul White
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by Paul White » July 8th, 2010, 9:47 pm

*shrug* hey, just cause it looks, smells, and has similar affects to....ok, ok, it is.

Hans those are some neat snakes. I wonder how the spreading the jaw thing works? Our pitouphis over here do it too...I don't know how.

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » July 9th, 2010, 12:27 am

I called my local snake specialist and author of many a field guide, and he believes (but is not sure) that the spreading is done by a combination of inflation and movable ribs. How does Pituophis do it?

monklet, no worries, for better educational efficiency I should really link each snake I post here to that site anyway.

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Ross Padilla
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Re: The Curious False Viper

Post by Ross Padilla » July 9th, 2010, 9:45 pm

Wow, the juveniles are gorgeous! I would definitely be fooled into thinking it was venomous if I didn't know better.

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