Shore Pit-Viper

Shore Pit-Viper

(Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus)

The Shore Pit-Viper is a native species from the family Viperidae. During the day, it can be found resting on low branches one or two meters from the ground. With a body that can reach upwards of 1 meter, this snake, which has a broad triangular head and large red eyes, has a uniformly dark purplish brown color with a fine white stripe (those located in mangrove ecosystems). The pit-viper has a slender body in males and a stouter one in females, with strongly rigid scales. 

Figure 1. Dark brown specimen in mangrove inlet, Sungei Buloh, Singapore. Courtesy of Nick Baker, Ecology Asia.

Found typically in the mangroves and coastal forests of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Lim Chu Kang, Sentosa, Pasir Ris and Pulau Ubin, this elusive nocturnal species has a reputation of being unpredictable. Giving no forewarning, the snake will strike readily at any threat, and its powerful haemotoxic venom (i.e. red blood cell-destroying toxin) can cause serious illness or even death. In fact, it flaunts a prehensile tail that can grip a branch to hang on while whipping out the rest of its body for a lethal attack. If it feels under threat, this venomous snake can strike far and rapidly; when distressed, it has been observed to shake its tail vigorously against nearby vegetation, creating a rattling sound. 

Figure 2. Greyish-brown specimen at Pasir Ris mangrove, Singapore. Courtesy of Nick Baker, Ecology Asia.

This predominantly solitary organism feeds naturally on lizards, frogs, and other small animals, possibly small birds. Like other vipers of its kind, it has heat-sensing pits on its lips to detect prey. While there is no concrete evidence stating that this family of reptiles are particularly territorial, like many other snakes of its kind, they are known to have a homing instinct. This behavioural pattern is characterised by the tendency of this organism to move back to a suitable location with a reliable population of prey, and shelter even after relocation. These vipers are currently listed as ‘endangered’ species on the IUCN Red List in Singapore; like other inhabitants of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human activities such as land reclamation and pollution. 



One thought on “Shore Pit-Viper

  1. Clear and comprehensive write-up about this species 🙂 Another interesting fact is that their eggs hatch internally, making it look as if they ‘give birth’ to live young – this phenomenon is known as ovoviviparity.


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