Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae

Genus/species: Crotalus adamanteus

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: They have a large head with a light bordered dark stripe running diagonally through the eye and a large pit between the nostril and eye.. The body is bulky with a row of large dark diamonds with brown centers and cream borders down its back. The ground color of the body ranges from olive, to brown, to almost black. The tail has a well-developed rattle. Maximum length to 7 feet (average length 33 to 72 inches).


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Endemic to the southeast of the United States. Found in in the coastal lowlands, barrier islands. Occasionally it may venture into salt water, swimming to the outlying Keys off the Florida coast.

DIET IN THE WILD; C. adamanteus is crepuscular and are most active in the evening or early morning. They feed primarily on small mammals, from mice to rabbits. Location of the prey is by odor, as well as by sensing the infrared waves (heat) given off by their warm-blooded prey.


REPRODUCTION: Brood size ranges from 6 to 21. The gestation period is six to seven months. Young are born live, in retreats such as gopher tortoise burrows or hollow logs and can live over 20 years.

PREDATORS: Young are taken by hogs, carnivorous mammals (the gray fox), raptors (the red-tailed hawk), and other snakes (especially king snakes). Adults have no natural predators.

CONSERVATION: Red List (LC) Least concern but the population is decreasing due to fragmentation by agriculture, forestry practices and urbanization.

REMARKS: It preys on rats, mice, rabbits, and other small mammals, many of which are pests to humans.
It can strike up to 2/3 its body length; a 6-foot specimen may strike 4 feet. It has potent venom with a mortality rate for humans is nearly 40 percent. The only acceptable treatment for venomous snakebite, involves the use of antivenom.

Color of Life note: Pit vipers, boas and pythons have heat sensing organs which detect infrared (IR) wavelengths on their face.  The snake can tell the direction from which a signal originates, depending on where the nerve signal strikes a membrane. This partnership between heat detection and visual sensory inputs allows the snake to detect its warm-blooded prey, even when it is too dark to pick out prey from the background.

Ref: California Academy of Sciences Color of Life Exhibit 2015.


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