Sahara Sand Viper (Cerastes vipera)

A small viper, growing up to 49 cm (Flower, 1933), but mostly between 30 and 35 cm in most cases. Females are significant larger and stouter than males. Scales strongly keeled, which gives a more rough and rugose appearance in contrast to Cerastes cerastes. Three, sometimes four scales between the eye and the supralabials (Schleich et al., 1996).

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Description

A small viper, growing up to 49 cm (Flower, 1933), but mostly between 30 and 35 cm in most cases. Females are significant larger and stouter than males. Scales strongly keeled, which gives a more rough and rugose appearance in contrast to Cerastes cerastes. Three, sometimes four scales between the eye and the supralabials (Schleich et al., 1996). Strauch (1869) examined twelve Avicenna vipers, ten out of had four rows of Suboculars. Body colour beige, brown to orange-red, last coloration especially in the most western part of their distribution. Only fairly marked, except in the coastal areas of southwestern Morocco and Western Sahara, where individuals with contrasting pattern, blue-grey marks and uniformly orange eyes are typical. There is a sexual dimorphsm (dichromatism), females have black tails, while these are in the same colour as the body in males, only getting darker to the tip (Marx, 1958).
Adults average 20–35 cm (8-14 inches) in total length (body + tail), with a maximum total length of 50 cm (1.6 ft). Females are larger than males.3 Small and stout, it has a broad, triangular head with small eyes set well forward and situated on the junction of the side and the top of the head.

Common names
Common names include Sahara sand viper, Avicenna viper,3 common sand viper,5 Egyptian asp, Cleopatra's asp, sand viper,6 Avicenna's sand viper, lesser cerastes.7

Ecology and habits

Avicenna´s viper is a side winder, leaving only J-shaped, not connected tracks on the sand, when being fast on its way.

Cerastes vipera is a caudal lurer, what means, the digged in sand viper puts its tail in front of its head, with the tail tip out of the substrate. When prey comes close, it starts to move its tail tip, resembling a potential prey for the lizard (Neill, 1960; pers. obs.). This might be in causal relationship with the dark to black tail of the viper.

Feeds mostly on lizards (Acanthodactylus, Mesalina, Stenodactylus), but young small rodents are taken as well, especially by the larger females.
cology and habits

Avicenna´s viper is a side winder, leaving only J-shaped, not connected tracks on the sand, when being fast on its way.

Cerastes vipera is a caudal lurer, what means, the digged in sand viper puts its tail in front of its head, with the tail tip out of the substrate. When prey comes close, it starts to move its tail tip, resembling a potential prey for the lizard (Neill, 1960; pers. obs.). This might be in causal relationship with the dark to black tail of the viper.

Feeds mostly on lizards (Acanthodactylus, Mesalina, Stenodactylus), but young small rodents are taken as well, especially by the larger females.
Cerastes vipera is a high specialized sand dunes dweller and therefore restricted to the sand dunes (Erg) of the Sahara. In the southwest of Morocco and in Western Sahara it also lives in coastal dunes, like in the Khnifiss Lagoon. Pure sand dunes are avoided, Cerastes vipera prefers depressions with some vegetation, where it hides below small bushes or at the edge of Halfah or Esparto Grass (Stipa tenacissima) digged in the sand, only eyes and nose out of the sand.
Own observations at the Erg Chebbi (Merzouga) during September showed the dunes “full” of tracks from this species, one crossing the other. This points to a quite high density of specimens, although only a few live vipers could have been seen during dark, walking around with a flashlight.

It´s conservation status in Western Sahara is Lower risk-least concern