Even in my wildest dreams, I would never imagine a creature that looks like this would exist. The spider-tailed horned viper is a scary-looking reptile with a terrifying hunting tactic that it uses to capture birds. So if you are new to this viper species like I do, we are going to learn so much today. Below are some details of the spider-tailed horned vipers that you may find fascinating, so check them out.
A spider-tailed horned viper has a mottled beige and white body with ripple and rough skin. Plus with the corrugated scales, this viper species can camouflage perfectly into its surrounding environments. As you can see, it has a wide triangular head with two little horns above yellowish-tan eyes. On top of its head are 16 to 17 scales between the horns, with the same color as the body. It can grow up to 53 centimeters (20 inches) in length which is quite long.
This viper’s most famous feature is the unique and rather scary tail with long thin scales that resembles spider legs. In the middle of the legs is a scale-less bulb-like part that looks just like a spider’s body. This viper does not only wiggle its tail but also moves it around on its body, looking like a crawling spider. The new study revealed that the viper starts growing its tail after birth, and it completes when it reaches adulthood.
This viper uses its tail that looks like a spider to bait birds to come down so that it can hunt it. Even creepier, the viper wiggle the tail around to mimic the movements and motions of a spider. The bird then comes down to capture the meal just to be captured and become the meal instead. By the time the bird notices that it has been tricked, it is already too late. This viper always positions its head near the tail so that it can strike the moment the bird swoops down. The spider-tailed horned viper is very fast, and it strikes even before the bird gets the chance to peck its tail.
As a viper, it is only natural for them to be aggressive and dangerous towards intruders. When threatened, a spider-tailed horned viper would hiss to warn before striking with its fangs to inject its deadly venom. At the same time, it also enters a hyper-alert pose while focusing its vision by cocking its head to the side. If the enemy or prey does not leave, it will get the taste of venom from the viper. This viper can strike so fast it happens in just 0.2 second, faster than a blink of an eye.
3Feeding & Habitats
Since the tails are made for attracting birds, the main course on their menu is birds; migratory birds to be exact. Adult spider-tailed horned vipers only prey on migratory birds that are new to the trick. Local birds know what’s going on so they never fall for this spider-tail trick. As for juvenile or young vipers with undeveloped tails, they catch and feed on lizards and other small reptiles.
You can find these vipers in the gypsum and limestone rocks in Western Iran. Where they are from, these snakes live in burrows or cracked rocks that they can hide in. Besides these, they also live in forests and semi-arid land of scrub where they can take shelter. As long as the area is arid, dry, and desert-like, these vipers will be happy. At the moment, spider-tailed horned vipers are endangered and at the brink of extinction due to illegal trade and poaching.