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Bitis atropos (LINNAEUS, 1758)

IUCN Red List - Bitis atropos - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaViperidae, Viperinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
SubspeciesBitis atropos atropos (LINNAEUS 1758)
Bitis atropos unicolor FITZSIMONS 1959 
Common NamesE: Mountain Adder
G: Bergotter 
SynonymColuber Atropos LINNAEUS 1758: 216
Vipera montana SMITH 1826: 252
Echidna ocellata TSCHUDI 1845 (fide SCHÄTTI 1985)
Echidna atropos — DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1854: 1432
Bitis atropos — WELCH 1994: 27
Bitis (Calechidna) atropos — LENK et al. 1999
Bitis atropos — MCDIARMID, CAMPBELL & TOURÉ 1999: 360
Bitis atropos — DOBIEY & VOGEL 2007
Bitis (Calechidna) atropos — WITTENBERG et al. 2014
Bitis atropos — WALLACH et al. 2014: 92
Bitis (Calechidna) atropos — BARLOW et al. 2019

Bitis atropos unicolor FITZSIMONS 1959
Bitis atropos unicolor — CONRADIE et al. 2019 
DistributionRepublic of South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, E Zimbabwe, C Mozambique

Type locality: “America” (in error)

unicolor: Republic of South Africa (E Transvaal); Terra typica: Witpoort, about 20 miles north of Belfast, eastern Transvaal.  
TypesSyntypes: NRM 96-97 (was Mus. Ad. Fr.", sometimes as NHRM)
Holotype: PEM R8220 (formerly AMG 1251); [unicolor] 
DiagnosisDIAGNOSIS (unicolor): Head scaling somewhat similar to that in typical atropos, but less strongly keeled and, over back of head, not so markedly elongate; outermost row of scales on body practically smooth anteriorly and but feebly keeled posteriorly; almost uniformly khaki to reddish brown above and apparently a smaller snake than typical atropos. 

Synonymy: some authors consider unicolor to be a synonym of B. atropos (e.g. Golay et al. 1993). 
EtymologyNamed after Atropos, one of the three Fates in Greek mythology. She is often portrayed with a pair of scissors in her hand, as she was the one who cut the thread of one's life, thus an apt name for a venomous snake (Beolens et al. 3011: 12). 
  • Anonymous 1984. Die Atropos-Viper oder Bergotter. Herpetofauna 6 (30): 29 - get paper here
  • Barlow A, Wüster W, Kelly CMR, Branch WR, Phelps T, Tolley KA. 2019. Ancient habitat shifts and organismal diversification are decoupled in the African viper genus Bitis (Serpentes: Viperidae). J Biogeogr. 46: 1234– 1248 - get paper here
  • Bates, M.F.; Branch, W.R., Bauer, A.M.; Burger, M., Marais, J.; Alexander, G.J. & de Villliers, M.S. (eds.) 2014. Atlas and Red List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Suricata 1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, 512 pp.
  • Beolens, Bo; Michael Watkins, and Michael Grayson 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA - get paper here
  • Botha, S.A. 1986. Geographical Distribution - Bitis atropos. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (32): 31-31 - get paper here
  • Boycott, R.C. 1992. An Annotated Checklist of the Amphibians and Reptiles of Swaziland. The Conservation Trust of Swaziland - get paper here
  • Branch, William R. 1993. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers, 144 S.
  • Broadley, D. & Blaylock 2013. The Snakes of Zimbabwe and Botswana. Chimaira, Frankfurt, 387 pp. [book review in Sauria 35 (2): 59 and Copeia 2014: 388] - get paper here
  • Broadley, D.G. 1958. The case history of a Bitis atropos bite. J. Herp. Assoc. Rhodesia 2: 6 - get paper here
  • Broadley, D.G. 1959. The herpetology of Southern Rhodesia. Part I--the snakes. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 120 (1): 1-100 [reprint 1972] - get paper here
  • Broadley, D.G. 1962. On some reptile collections from the North-Western and North-Eastern Districts of Southern Rhodesia 1958-1961, with descriptions of four new lizards. Occ. Pap. Nat. Mus. South. Rhodesia 26 (B): 787-843
  • CONRADIE, WERNER; WILLIAM R. BRANCH, & GILLIAN WATSON 2019. Type specimens in the Port Elizabeth Museum, South Africa, including the historically important Albany Museum collection. Part 2: Reptiles (Squamata). Zootaxa 4576 (1): 001–045 - get paper here
  • Dobiey, M. & Vogel, G. 2007. Venomous Snakes of Africa - Giftschlangen Afrikas. Edition Chimaira, Terralog 15, 150 pp. - get paper here
  • Duméril, A. M. C., Bibron, G. & DUMÉRIL, A. H. A., 1854. Erpétologie générale ou histoire naturelle complète des reptiles. Tome septième. Deuxième partie, comprenant l'histoire des serpents venimeux. Paris, Librairie Encyclopédique de Roret: i-xii + 781-1536 - get paper here
  • FitzSimons, V. 1959. Some new reptiles from southern Africa and southern Angola. Annals Transvaal Mus. 23: 405-409 - get paper here
  • Fleck, Jürgen 2015. Klein, aber fein: Beobachtungen an der Zwergbitis Bitis atropos. Terraria-Elaphe 2015 (6): 70-74 - get paper here
  • Fraser M. 2023. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa. Biodiversity Observations 13: 162–185. 14 March 2023 - get paper here
  • Haagner, G. V. 1990. Life History Note: Bitis atropos: Reproduction and Sperm Retention. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (37): 48-48 - get paper here
  • Haagner, G. V. 1991. Geographical Distribution - Bitis atropos. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (39): 20-20 - get paper here
  • Haagner, G.V.; Branch, W.R. 1995. Geographical Distribution - Bitis atropos. African Herp News (23): 48-49 - get paper here
  • Herrmann, H. W.; Joger, U.; Lenk, P. & Wink, M. 1999. Morphological and molecular phylogenies of viperines: conflicting evidence? Kaupia (Darmstadt) (8): 21-30 - get paper here
  • Hurter, J. 1986. Venoms And Snakebite: Bitis atropos: Envenomation. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (32): 33-33 - get paper here
  • Jacobsen, N.H.G. 1986. Life History Note: Bitis atropos: Reproduction. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (32): 38-38 - get paper here
  • Jordaan, A., Heideman, N. J., & Buschke, F. T. 2021. Topography‐derived variables provide insight into habitat occupancy of a cryptic snake, Bitis atropos. Austral Ecology - get paper here
  • La Rivers, I.; Koenig, H.F. 1981. Analysis of Berg Adder, Bitis atropos venom. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (26): 1-2 - get paper here
  • Lenk,P.; Herrmann,H. W.; Joger,U. & Wink,M. 1999. Phylogeny and taxonomic subdivision of Bitis (Reptilia: Viperidae) based on molecular evidence. Kaupia (Darmstadt) (8): 31-38 - get paper here
  • Linnaeus, C. [= Linné, C. von] 1758. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Laurentii Salvii, Holmiæ. 10th Edition: 824 pp. - get paper here
  • Mallow, D. Ludwig, D. & Nilson, G. 2003. True Vipers: Natural History and Toxinology of Old World Vipers. Krieger, Malabar, Florida, 410 pp. [review in HR 35: 200, Reptilia 35: 74]
  • Martínez del Mármol, G. 2020. The phenotypic variability of the Genus Bitis Gray 1842, with remarks in its resemblance to other vipers. In: Martínez, G., León, R., Jiménez-Robles, O., González De la Vega, J. P., Gabari, V., Rebollo, B., Sánchez-Tójar, A., Fernández-Cardenete, J. R., Gállego, J. (Eds.). Amphibians and Reptiles of Morocco and Western Sahara - get paper here
  • McDiarmid, R.W.; Campbell, J.A. & Touré,T.A. 1999. Snake species of the world. Vol. 1. [type catalogue] Herpetologists’ League, 511 pp.
  • O’Shea, M. 2018. The Book of Snakes. Ivy Press / Quarto Publishing, London, - get paper here
  • Phelps, T. 2010. Old World Vipers. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt, 558 pp. [critical review in Sauria 33 (3): 19 and HR 43: 503]
  • Schätti, B. 1985. Catalogue des types et des exemplaires figurés du Musée d’Histoire Naturelle de Neuchâtel - II. Ophidiens. Bibliotheques et Muses de la Ville de Neuchatel, 1985: 98-108.
  • Smith,A. 1826. On the snakes of Southern Africa. Edinburgh New Philos. J. 1: 248-254
  • Ulber, T.;Ulber, E. 1995. Die Bergotter: eine terraristisch bislang unbekannte Farbvarietät. TI Magazin 1995 (123): 40-43
  • Wallach, Van; Kenneth L. Williams , Jeff Boundy 2014. Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. [type catalogue] Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, 1237 pp.
  • Weima, André 2011. Picture: Bitis atropos. Litteratura Serpentium 31 (2): 120 - get paper here
  • Wittenberg, Rod D. & Robert C. Jadin & Allyson M. Fenwick & Ronald L. Gutberlet Jr. 2014. Recovering the evolutionary history of Africa’s most diverse viper genus: morphological and molecular phylogeny of Bitis (Reptilia: Squamata: Viperidae). Org Divers Evol, DOI 10.1007/s13127-014-0185-3
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