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Snake: Gaboon Adder

Find, identify & discuss the marine species of SANParks
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Pilane
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Unread postby Pilane » Mon May 23, 2005 7:46 pm

There are two species of Gaboon Adders in Africa
The East African Gaboon and the West African Gaboon
The easiest way to ID them is to look at the line going from the eye, down the side of the face. The West african has only one brown strip where the east african has a white band between the brown which is also the Gaboon found in South Africa. St Lucia coast line up into East Africa. The Eastern Gaboon has fangs of up to 4cm (easterns are shorter) Don't try to measure them :D The West African Gaboon is generally a lager snake than the East African Gaboon

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Unread postby WestCoaster » Mon May 30, 2005 7:03 am

Mmmm; my fav snake!

A couple of answers and slight corrections:

Wildtuinman -

It's highly unlikely that you would find a GA in Pafuri, as it's too dry there. Their habitat requires soft leaf litter for camouflage purposes such as is found in the Pongola riverine system. That said, I suppose that a specimen or two could have found its way up the Limpopo along the Mocambique riverine forest to Crooke's Corner, but I doubt it. I also find no reference to any official sightings for that area in Bill Branch's definitive "Snakes of Southern Africa" reference work. By the way, the GA has the longext fangs of any snake in the world- I don't think anyone has decided on which snake has the longest teeth!

Aquila -

Yes, the GA is our most endangered species of snake. However, it needs to be said that it now appears that there are more of them out there than previously assumed. An exciting piece of research was done recently in Natal with Samango Monkeys. It was well known that they had two alarm calls - one for danger from the air (Crowned Eagles, etc), and the other for danger from the ground (the cats, etc). It was then discovered that they have a third, very different call for snakes, especially the dangerous GA, for use among the troop when they forage among the leaf litter on the ground, as they so often do in their home forests. Herpetologists then decided to follow Samangos from a distance, and investigate every time they heard the alarm call and watched the subsequent fleeing of the troop. In almost every case they confirmed a sighting of a GA, proving that this elusive reptile is more common than previously thought. It was further discovered that the Samango has the ability to "see through" the GA's camouflage - a rather useful ability, I would say!
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Johan van Rensburg
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Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Mon Jun 23, 2008 8:29 pm

This thread is in dire need of a pic. I shot this one of a captive Gaboon in St Lucia, Northern Natal.

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Amazing camouflaging capability is possessed by this animal. I have an idea that the Samango monkeys can only spot it when it moves, for when it is motionless I am sure it is invisible! :lol:

The biggest among African vipers, this viper can reach 180 cm in length. The fangs may reach a length of 55 mm, the longest of any venomous snake, not just in South Africa. As previously mentioned, they are usually found in rainforests and nearby woodlands, mainly at low altitudes, in South Africa exclusively in the north east of KZN.

Primarily nocturnal, they have a reputation for being slow-moving and placid. They usually hunt by ambush, often spending long periods motionless, waiting for suitable prey to happen by; its colour pattern giving it excellent camouflage. On the other hand, they have been known to hunt actively, mostly during the first six hours of the night. Following a strike, they tend to hold on to their prey until it is dead. Prey is also lifted off the ground to prevent it from struggling effectively. Anything large enough to pose more of a threat is released and searched for after a few minutes when incapacitated by the viper’s venom. These snakes feed on a variety of birds and mammals.

The eyes of the Gaboon viper is its most striking feature. It was therefore not a surprise to learn that this snake has a wider range of eye movement than other snakes. Along a horizontal plane, its eye movement can be maintained even if the head is rotated up or down to an angle of up to 45°. If the head is rotated 360°, one eye will tilt up and the other down, depending on the direction of rotation. Also, if one eye looks forwards the other looks back, as if both are connected to a fixed position on an axis between them. In general, the eyes often flick back and forth in a rapid and jerky manner. When asleep, there is no eye movement and the pupils are strongly contracted. The pupils dilate suddenly and eye movement resumes when the animal wakes up.

Gaboon vipers are usually very tolerant snakes, even when handled, and rarely bite or hiss. However, bad-tempered individuals do occur. If threatened, they may hiss loudly as a warning, doing so in a deep and steady rhythm, slightly flattening the head at the expiration of each breath. They are unlikely to strike unless severely provoked. The venom itself is not considered particularly toxic. However, the venom glands are enormous and produce the largest quantities of any venomous snake. Together with the potential depth at which the huge quantities of venom can be delivered, such bites often has fatal consequences. Like many other vipers, its venom is a cell-destroying toxin, causing swelling, necrosis, gangrene and later shock and possibly death.

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Unread postby Bennievis » Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:09 pm

Johan, Thanks for your report and photo! We are proud to have them here in our dune forests in Zululand.

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Unread postby Jumbo » Wed Jul 23, 2008 9:49 am

Mfezi wrote:
The venom itself is not considered particularly toxic.


I am not so sure about this. I have read that its venom also contains cardiotoxins (toxins working on the heart). Will look for the reference at home and then post it as soon as I have found it.


My guidebook does not mention it, but on a TV program I saw, it was also mentioned that the venom of this adder has a combination of cardiotoxins and cytotoxic properties.

My guidebook does however state that the venom is potent…comparable to that of a Puff Adder…but with a single bite from the Gaboon Adder, more venom is injected…victims require prompt medical treatment to avoid death. :shock:

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Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Thu Jul 24, 2008 1:12 pm

Potency and toxicity is different aspects of venom.
Potency considers the effect of a complete application (bite) while toxicity compares one venom with another on a standard volume.

The only logical way to compare toxicity is with the results based on laboratory experiments with mice.
The lethal dose measurements are not perfect mimics of how humans would respond, but they are certainly close enough for practical purposes.
Using this as a basis, the venom from a Gaboon viper does not score particularly high on the list of most toxic venoms (rated #16 most toxic snake venom in the world).
However, whether a death stalker scorpion from North Africa is 25 or 78 times more toxic than a Gaboon viper does not matter if you get bitten by either one.
In both cases, you would be in trouble.
The terrific volume of venom produced by a Gaboon viper is what makes it dangerous, not the toxicity, that is the point I make with my statement that the venom of the Gaboon is not particularly toxic… that is when compared to the toxicity of other animals in general.
For instance, the venom from the Australian Inland Taipan (#1 snake) is so toxic that 1 mg can kill a person. The South American Poison Dart Frog’s skin contains a toxin 500 times more powerful than that of the Taipan!

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Gaboon Adder

Unread postby armata » Mon Jul 28, 2008 8:46 pm

Here is one I found on the frontal dunes a while back, Eastern Shores, St Lucia.

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TP

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Gaboon Adder

Unread postby armata » Mon Jul 28, 2008 10:02 pm

Here is another one, a female from Monzi, Dukuduku. Females are much more sedentary than males; this female has been in the same patch for over two years. Males wander more, searching for females around October time or a bit later. On a drizzly evening found four males on the St Lucia Road. Too dangerous to cruise that road at night now.

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TP

Jumbo

Unread postby Jumbo » Tue Jul 29, 2008 7:26 am

These are amazing photos, Armata! :clap:
I don’t think there are many people who have photographed these snakes in the wild.
I know they are listed as “vulnerable” in the SA Red Data Book….I wonder how many are actually still left in the wild? :(

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Unread postby Mfezi » Mon Aug 04, 2008 7:51 pm

On Tuesday 24 June 2008, I posted that the Gaboon's venom contains cardiotoxins. May I rephrase / change that post to the following:

"Cardiac arrhythmias have been reported in gaboon adder bites." Page 10 of The Diagnosis and Treatment of Envenomation in South Africa by Leonard Schrire, Gert J. Muller and Liron Pantanowitz.

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Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:04 pm

I am sure that like most cardio toxins, some individuals with cardiac vulnerability would die despite the relatively low potency.

I was at the Johannesburg Zoo on Saturday where they have a Gaboon Viper. It was difficult to see despite the fact that it was in captivity and under scrutiny. It is a master of camouflage. I can well believe that the are probably under estimated.

I was very taken with its colouring. They must be among the most "striking" of all snakes.
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Snake: Gaboon Viper

Unread postby gabrielserban » Thu Sep 11, 2008 10:35 am

just checking--are Gabon vipers oviparous or not? being vipers they must be a quite new on the evolution scale,like rattlesnakes or so,which do give birth,but they seem to have a rather ''primitive design'' to me... am i right?
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Re: gaboon vipers

Unread postby Imberbe » Thu Sep 11, 2008 10:38 pm

They are viviparous, giving berth to between 16 and 30 young, but up to 60!
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Re: gaboon vipers

Unread postby Pilane » Fri Sep 19, 2008 8:12 pm

Just rememmber that all snakes actually hatch from eggs... :twisted:

Eggs are only retained in the viviporous spesies until the young are fully developed and then "born".
These eggs are different from normals egss- not leathery and the babies are normally 'born' in a membrane sac :wink:

This form of vivparity is thefore very different from the vivparity of mammals

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Re: gaboon vipers

Unread postby gabrielserban » Fri Sep 19, 2008 8:30 pm

thanks for the answer-and yes,of course they do are different from mammals ,having no umbilical cord or placenta. i know there are some frogs in africa who seem to be viviparous-besides the fact that they enhance the offspring chances to survive,could that result as an adaptation for lower temperatures(as some lizards do when living in the mountains)? in fact,do frog eggs need heat (besides moisture ) in order to hatch? the mechanism is different from reptiles, not being able to conserve water... so too much is deadly,but do they need it at all?
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