Atheris (VENOMOUS BUSH VIPER FROM AFRICA)

Learn about the bush viper snake! See our guide today.***See more on BUSH VIPER below***

If you’re looking for more about bush vipers, you’re in the RIGHT place! The Atheris, are fantastic reptiles to discover. Atheris are small snakes that reside in trees.

Johan Fredriksson [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

What other snakes is Atheris related to? The rough scaled viper is one…

As for their family description spiny vipers are part of the Atheris family too.

So, discover Atheris on our site:

  • Know about the Atheris ecosystem
  • Learn how Atheris is venomous and how dangerous it can be
  • Find out why Atheris mainly feed on small nocturnal animals

…and many more facts about bush vipers below. Read on for more!

Scientific Name: Atheris

The scientific name of these snakes is Atheris. Here is a look at some of the different species that are found around the world:

  • Spiny Atheris species
  • Rough scaled Atheris species
  • Hairy Atheris species
  • American Atheris species
  • African Atheris species
  • Green Atheris species
  • Red Atheris species

Atheris Reptile Family

These snakes belong to the Viperinae subfamily of snakes and their family is known by the name of Viperidae.

  • The higher classification of this snake is vipers.
  • In the scientific world, they rank as Genus.

Why are Atheris called Bush Vipers?

Atheris are very good at climbing and can easily climb up at a higher point. They are so good at climbing that they are very easily able to reach the upper parts of different flowering bushy plants. This is also the place where it spends most part of the day, because they love to spend time in the sun.

Michael Rivera [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

What do Atheris look like?

Take a look at the common and distinctive features of these snakes in terms of the way they look:

Atheris Colors

Usually, a viper snake can be found in a variety of colors that have a similarity with the outdoors, such as green, olive green, bluish colors or some type of brownish colour.  

Atheris Head Size and Shape

  • Usually, almost all the different species of this snake, such as the African variety, American variety, red variety and others, have a head that is triangular in shape and is quite broad.
  • The head of this snake is in typical cases larger than the size of the neck.
  • This makes the head of this viper look distinctly different from the neck.
  • Also, the crown of this viper snake is usually covered with small and smooth scales.

Atheris Eyes

  • In almost all the types of Atheris, the eyes are quite large and the pupils are elliptical in shape.
  • This kind of pupil not only makes it easier for these snakes to be able to see in the dark, making it easier for them to find their prey while they are on a hunt.
  • Also, one thing that is quite noticeable in the location of the eyes on the snake is the fact that their eyes are separated from the area of the mouth along the upper jaw by about 1 to 3 rows of scales.
  • There is also a separation of the eyes from the nasal area by about 2 to 3 scales.

Atheris Body Characteristics

  • This snake has a slender, compressed body.
  • The dorsal scales in this type of snake are overlapping. These refer to the scales on the body of the snake that are like a longitudinal series of plates and encircle the body.
  • The scales on the body of these types of snakes are keeled, which makes them rough to the touch instead of being smooth.
  • This snake has long and hollow fangs that are tubular in shape.
  • The venom that is supplied to the fangs of this snake comes from a gland that is situated on the upper jaw area between the eyes and the mouth.
  • Their tail has a strong prehensile quality, which is very helpful in supporting their body if they are hanging from a branch.  

Different Bush Viper Species

Stéphane Magnenat [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

There are different types of vipers, and the most common of them are as follows:

1. Red Atheris Variety

The red variety is a type of the Atheris species and is named so because of its colour. It is found in the tropical sub-Saharan African region, excluding southern Africa.

2. American Atheris Variety

These types of snakes are usually found in parts of South America.

3. African Atheris Variety

  • The African variety is also known as Atheris squamigera and is mostly found in the central and western parts of Africa.
  • One thing that is quite unusual about this type of snake is that it does not make a hissing sound by scale-rasping on it’s tail, which is most commonly associated with snakes.
  • Some of the most common African viper colors are red, orange, green, yellow or even in a combination of these different colors.
  • In some cases, this particular species can also change its color during its lifetime.

4. Green Atheris Variety

The green variety is a type of African viper, and is also known as the Atheris squamigera. This snake can be especially deadly for the human species. Many of these are found in agricultural areas, where they lie in wait for their prey.

These species of snakes are extremely venomous, and while they usually do not come forward to attack, unless they are hunting, they can easily strike their venom if they come in close proximity to humans.

How common are Bush Vipers?

Not all of these snakes are common. A lot of their species are now isolated and have become fragmented in their distribution because they are able to live properly only in rain forests or areas that have a similar climate.

In which region is Atheris typically found?

  • In most cases, these types of snakes are usually found in the tropical sub-Saharan African region, which does not include southern Africa. The African variety is most commonly found in the western as well as the central parts of Africa.
  • Some types of these snakes, especially the American variety, are also said to be found in some parts of South America.
  • These snakes typically love to inhabit the rain forests, or areas that have a similar climate.
  • They can also sometimes be found in dense agricultural areas.  

What are the chances that humans will encounter Atheris?

These snakes are usually a solitary species that spend most of their time away from other habitation. It usually comes around other living beings only when it is time to mate, or when it is looking to hunt.

As a result, it is not very common that human beings will easily encounter this kind of snake (unlike the green viper about which you can read about above), unless they are out in the specific areas where these species of snakes are found.