Saw-scaled Viper is the only Echis species found in India and member of famous 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. It 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 for deserts and semi-deserts.
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. Reproduction ovoviviparous, female directly gives birth to 6-8 young individuals during summer to monsoon months.
New born- 8cm.
Average length- 30cm.
Maximum length- 80cm. (Depends on geographical areas, South Indian population is known for smaller size)
Saw-scaled Viper is a nocturnal species which remains active from late evening to late nights for foraging and other life activities. Can be seen at day time while basking on habitat. Activity usually terrestrial but climbs on scrub vegetation for basking. Locomotion slow and use side winding motion for creeping faster. Behavior very alert, aggressive and quick to respond. 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 present on flank. This rubbing produce fascinating sound of "working of saw". Strikes very fast when enemy approaches to its attacking range and delivers small but very potent amount of venom even by scratching only.
Feeds on small rodents, geckos, other snakes, insects including scorpions.
Found both in moderate elevation and plains. Distributed in variety of forests including deserts, semi-deserts, rainforest, scrub forest, mixed, dry and moist deciduous forest, grassland etc. Habitat includes dry open lands, agricultural field, scrubs, rocky terrain, open plains etc. Hides in mounds, holes, piles, caves, cracks, dense leaf litters, rocks etc.
Subspecies Echis carinatus carinatus: Distributed throughout the Indian mainlands except most of the West Bengal (likely to be occur only in western parts of state) and eastwards states after West Bengal; also not found above Gangetic plains, Himalayan foothills, Indian Islands. Also found in Pakistan.
Echis carinatus sochureki: Distributed in Western India (Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan)
Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Daman & Diu, Delhi, Chattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, West Bengal.
IUCN: Not listed
Major threats are habitat destruction despite the fact that its well adopted to live in ignored lands and rocky terrain. 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 where other snakes usually don't show much activity.
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.