|Scientific Name||Echis carinatus Schneider, 1801|
Saw-scaled Viper is the only Echis species found in India and member of famos Big Four. This is also the smallest Viperidae member with an average size of 30cm only. Indian Saw Scaled Viper's population ends eastwards in Odisha and West Bengal states with eastern-most boundary of the genus Echis. Can be identified by carefully checking very dry looking body covered with rough scales, light color rounded patches on top which are surrounded by two wavy lines from head to posterior body. In deserts and semi-deserts of India this is perhaps the most common venomous snake and so the most important medically significant reptile.
Midbody there are 25-39 rows of dorsal scales that are keeled scales with apical pits; on the flanks, these have serrated keels. There are 143-189 ventral scales that are rounded and cover the full width of the belly. The subcaudals are undivided and number 21-52, and the anal scale is single.
10-12 supralabials (4th largest); 10-15 small size scales around eyes (excluding supraocular); 3-4 scales between nasal and eyes; 8-12 scales between supraoculars.
Highly keeled scales in 25-29: 27-37: 21-27 rows; obliquely arranged scales in 4-7 rows (these are responsible for its famous saw like sound due to mutual rubbing of side dorsals).
132-185; anal divided or undivided.
Mating season starts with male combats. Female directly gives birth to 6-8 young during summer to monsoon months.
Average length- 30cm. Maximum length- 80cm. (Depends on geographical areas, South Indian population is known for smaller size)
Dorsal body -
Body short and stout. Highly keeled scales of pointed shape of dry appearance found in all over the dorsal body. Body color ranges from light to dark brown, gray, brick red or reddish-brown. Light color spots of light yellow or very light brown margined by dark color found in whole dorsal surface; these spots may be more symmetric on mid body; usually connected by two undulating lines from both sides (head to posterior body).
Ventral body -
Belly color white with dark brown or blackish spots in all ventral scales; these spots become larger and more prominent on side ventrals. Subcaudal scales undivided.
Head triangular with small shaped keeled scale; clearly broader than neck. One Arrow or cruciform shaped or somewhat plus shaped mark always exists on the top of the head which may have long or short arms. Eyes with vertical pupil. Two long foldable fangs present on the fore side of the mouth in all life stages.
Short tail with a pointed tip, covered with keeled scales; typical dorsal patterns may be absent or faint.
Common Sand Boa
Common Cat Snake
Activity terrestrial but often seen at low height of vegetation for basking. Foraging and most of the activities seen during night time.
Locomotion slow; use sidewinding method to creep faster. Behavior very alert and aggressive. This is one of the fastest striking snake and takes much less than 1 second time to bite and back to its original place. On provocation it makes a specific coil to keep the head on front and middle of the coil which is followed by mutual rubbing of oblique scales of flank. This produces fascinating sound of "working of saw". Strikes very fast when enemy approaches to its attacking range and delivers small but very potent amout of venom even by scratching only.
Feeds on small rodents, geckos, other snakes, insects including scorpions.
Sandy rocky terrains and open grassy areas and scrub jungles
Found both in moderate elevation and plains. Habitat includes dry open lands, agricultural field, scrub lands, rocky terrains, scrub forests, graslands, open forests etc. Hides in mounds, holes, piles, caves, cracks, dense leaf litters, rocks etc. At day time hides in shadowed thick leaf litters, mounds or under rocks.
Distribution throughout the Indian mainlands except West Bengal and eastwards states; also not found above gangetic plains.
IUCN: Not listed
Major threats are habitat destruction despite the fact that its well adapted to live in ignored lands and rocky terrains. Killing due to its venom potency and road kills are other major causes. For its venom it has been exploited in numbers and usually collected from field which are not protected and ignored.
Saw-scaled Viper is the only species of genus Echis which is found in India. It feeds on variety of small rodents, other small snakes and various insects. In this way it plays important role in ecosystem of dry zones of its distribution range.
It is said that its saw like sound can cause body rotting even without giving any bite. However this is just a myth because of its striking speed it quickly gets back to its original position and people assume that it delivered venom just by making sound.