Viper Horns

The West African Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica rhinoceros) is a reptile in the Viperidae family of venomous viper snakes. It is a viperid snake.

The West African Gaboon Viper from Sub-Saharn Africa has a flat, triangular head with a pair of horn-like structures between its nostrils. They are not real horns. They are hard protuberences called rostral horns.

West African Gaboon Viper

It is a slow-moving snake and it does not actively search for food. It feeds at night and waits for animals to come close to it. Then it ambushes the animal. The West African Gaboon Viper is called an ambush predator.

The West African Gaboon Viper’s rostral horns are sometimes referred to as rhinoceros-like horns, but a rhinoceros horn is made of keratin. The Viper’s rostral horns are made of a cuticular substance like hardened skin.

Rostrum means that the structure is situated between the oral region (mouth) and the nasal region (nose). There is limited information about the function of the rostral horns. Scientists think rostral horns may be able to detect chemical signals and vibrations in the air and on the ground – as a form of sensory communication.

West African Gaboon Viper
West African Gaboon Viper
West African Gaboon Viper

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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