Environment

Which Is The Highest Living Snake In The World?

The Gloydius himalayanus or the Himalayan pit viper is the world's highest living snake found living at altitudes of up to 16,072 feet in the Himalayas.

Which Is The Highest Living Snake in the World?

The Himalayan pit viper or the Gloydius himalayanus has been found at altitudes of up to 16,072 feet in the Himalayas. Snakes inhabit a variety of habitats ranging from forests, water bodies, swamps, grasslands, deserts, and highlands. Snake species, like other organisms, encounter challenges in high altitudes due to the cold temperatures and low amount of oxygen. Some reptile species have adapted to living in such regions including two endemic species present in the Tibet highlands.

Range And Habitat Of The Himalayan Pit Viper

The Himalayan pit viper lives in the southern slopes of the Himalayas ranging from the northeastern region of Pakistan to Punjab and Kashmir in northern India and Nepal. It thrives in altitudes of 6,900 to 16,100 ft, which covers the mid and western Himalayas in both forested and rocky regions. The snake is commonly sighted under fallen timber, leaves, ledges and stones, in or under rocks, in crevices, and beneath boulders.

Description Of The Himalayan Pit Viper

The Himalayan Pit Viper is classified in the genus Gloydius, the family Viperidae, and the suborder Serpentes. It was first described and named by Albert Günther in 1864. The snake’s elongated head features large scales which are symmetrically arranged. It grows to an average length of 2.5 to 3.0 ft and has a short tapering tail. The snake is recognized by strongly keeled dorsal scales and a postocular which separates the supralabials from the eye. Behind the snake’s head are 20-23 rows of dorsal scales while those at mid-body are mostly 21 rows but can be 19 or 23. There are 17 dorsal scale rows just before the vent which sometimes can be 15. The snake has a brownish, mottled dorsum which appears as a pattern of transverse bars. Ventral scales appear white with red and black speckles or dots. The snake sports a heat-sensing loreal pit in the area between the nostril and eye making it one of its kinds in Pakistan.

Behavior And Diet Of The Himalayan Pit Viper

This snake is terrestrial meaning it lives on land and not water. Being nocturnal, the snake is primarily active at nighttime. Its diet includes small rodents, millipedes, and centipedes. The Himalayan pit viper is mostly sighted near its hiding place where it retreats when threatened. It is described as a lazy and timid species which makes slow movements from one region to another. The snake rarely attempts to bite when it is handled.

Venom Of The Himalayan Pit Viper

The Himalayan pit viper is identified as a venomous snake species. The venomous elements present in its venom include neurotoxins, myotoxins, procoagulants, haemorrhagins, and necrotoxins. Bites from this species are rarely reported, and thus not much is known about the effects the venom potentially has on human bodies. Local effects range from bruising and blistering to local pain and swelling. These effects subside in two to three days, even in the absence of treatment. Variable non-specific effects such as vomiting, headache, diarrhea, convulsions, nausea, and dizziness may be experienced. Once a person is bitten by this snake, it is advisable first to perform first aid including immobilization of the bitten limb and then seek modern medical treatment. The victim undergoes antivenom therapy which has proved effective in treatment.

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