Among other reptiles, this snake stands out with an airy name "efa". Agree, the word really looks like a light breath of breeze or exhalation. Name Echus came to Latin from the Greek word [έχις] - viper. She has an unusual way of getting around. It does not creep, but moves sideways.
It was not for nothing that we mentioned this at the very beginning, because the name of this snake could well have come from the way of movement. From it on the sand there are traces in the form of the Latin letter "f". Therefore, or due to the fact that she likes to curl up not in a ball, but in folded loops, performing a drawing of the Greek letter "F" - phi, this reptile could also be called an epha.
It was in this form that she was depicted in engravings and drawings, distinguishing this from other reptiles.
Efa - snake from the family of vipers, and in its family it is the most poisonous. But this achievement is not enough for her, she boldly enters the ten most dangerous snakes on the planet. Every seventh person who died from a snakebite was bitten by an epha. It is especially dangerous at the time of mating and guarding the brood. Interestingly, in Western sources it is called a carpet or scaly viper.
Despite its small size, the efa is one of the most venomous snakes.
Description and features
Ephi are relatively small snakes, the largest species does not exceed 90 cm in length, and the smallest is about 30 cm. Males are usually larger than females. The head is small, wide, pear-shaped (or spear-shaped), sharply delimited from the neck, like in many vipers. All covered with small scales. The muzzle is short, rounded, the eyes are relatively large, with a vertical pupil.
There are inter-nose shields. The body is cylindrical, slender, muscular. Efa snake in the photo does not differ in bright colors, but still arouses interest, it was not for nothing that it was called a carpet viper. She has a bright and clear back coloration. Depending on the habitat and conditions, the color can vary from light brown to gray, sometimes with a reddish tint.
Along the entire back there is a beautiful and intricate white pattern that can be in the form of spots or saddle bars. White areas are edged with dark ones. The sides and abdomen are usually lighter than the back. There are small dark gray spots on the belly, and arched light stripes on the sides.
The most distinctive feature is its scales. When depicting a scaly cover of the f-hole in the figure, they must show a jagged cut of small separate elements that are on the sides. They are directed obliquely downward and are equipped with sawtooth ribs. There are usually 4-5 rows of these scales.
It is they who create the famous rustling sound, serve the reptiles as a kind of musical instrument or warning signal. Because of them, the reptile got the name "toothed" or "sawtooth" snake. The dorsal scales are small and also have protruding ribs. A single longitudinal row of shields is located under the tail.
Efa moves along crumbling sands in a special way, contracting and unclenching like a spring. First, the reptile throws its head to the side, then brings the tail part of the body there and slightly forward, and then pulls up the rest of the front part. With this lateral mode of movement, a trail is left consisting of separate oblique strips with hooked ends.
Efu is easily recognizable by its body covered with many scales.
The genus consists of 9 species.
- Echis carinatus — sandy efa... Also there are names: scaled viper, small Indian viper, sawtooth viper. Settled in the Middle East and Central Asia. It is colored sandy yellow or golden. Light continuous stripes in the form of zigzags are visible on the sides. On the upper body, along the back and on the head there are white spots in the form of loops, the intensity of the white color differs in different regions. On the head, white spots are bordered with dark edging and laid out in the form of a cross or a flying bird. In turn, the sandy Epha is divided into 5 subspecies.
- Echis craniates astrolabe - Astol efa, a viper from Astol island off the coast of Pakistan (described by German biologist Robert Mertens in 1970). The pattern consists of a series of dark brown dorsal spots on a whitish background. On the sides there are light arcs. On the head there is a light mark in the form of a trident directed towards the nose.
- Echis carinatus carinatus - the nominal subspecies, the South Indian toothed viper (described by Johann Gottlob Schneider, a German naturalist and classical philologist, in 1801). Lives in India.
- Echis carinatus multisquamatus - Central Asian or multi-scaled Efa, Trans-Caspian toothed viper. This is what we used to imagine when we say "sandy efa". Lives in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The size is usually about 60 cm, but sometimes it grows up to 80 cm. The markings of the head are cruciform, the lateral white line is solid and wavy. Described by Vladimir Cherlin in 1981.
- Echis carinatus sinhaleyus - Ceylon efa, scaled viper Sri Lanka (described by the Indian herpetologist Deranyagala in 1951). It is similar in color to Indian, small in size up to 35 cm.
- Echis carinatus sochureki - efa Sochurek, Stemmler's toothed viper, eastern scaled viper. It lives in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and some parts of the Arabian Peninsula. On the back, the color is yellowish brown or brown, in the center there is a row of light spots with dark edges. The sides are marked with dark arcs. The belly is light, with dark gray blotches. On the head at the top there is a drawing in the form of an arrow directed towards the nose. Described by Stemmler in 1969.
- Echis coloratus - motley efa. Distributed in the east of Egypt, in Jordan, Israel, in the countries of the Arabian Peninsula.
- Echis hughesi - Somali Efa, Hughes' viper (named after British herpetologist Barry Hughes). Found only in northern Somalia, grows up to 32 cm. The pattern is not geometrically clear, consists of dark and light spots on a darker light brown background.
- Echis jogeri - carpet viper Joger, carpet viper Mali. Lives in Mali (West Africa). Small, up to 30 cm long. Color varies from brown to gray with reddish. The pattern consists of a series of light oblique loops or crossbars on the back in the form of a saddle, lighter on the sides, darker in the center. The belly is pale cream or ivory.
- Echis leucogaster - White-bellied Efa, lives in West and North-West Africa. Named for the color of the belly. The size is about 70 cm, rarely grows to 87 cm. The color is similar to the previous species. It does not always live in the desert, sometimes it is comfortable in dry savannas, in the beds of dry rivers. Oviparous.
- Echis megalocephalus –Big-headed Efa, Cherlin's scaled viper. Size up to 61 cm, lives on one island in the Red Sea, off the coast of Eritrea in Africa. Color from gray to dark, with light spots on the back.
- Echis ocellatus - West African carpet viper (ocellated carpet viper). Found in West Africa. Differs in a pattern made in the form of "eyes" on the scales. The maximum size is 65 cm. Oviparous, there are 6 to 20 eggs in the nest. Laying from February to March. Described by Otmar Stemmler in 1970.
- Echis omanensis - Omani efa (Omani scaled viper). Lives in the United Arab Emirates and in eastern Oman. Can climb mountains to a height of 1000 meters.
- Echis pyramidum - Egyptian efa (Egyptian scaled viper, northeastern African viper). Lives in northern Africa, on the Arabian Peninsula, in Pakistan. Up to 85 cm long.
English sources indicate 3 more species: efa Borkini (lives in western Yemen), efa Hosatsky (East Yemen and Oman) and efa Romani (recently found in Southwestern Chad, Nigeria, northern Cameroon).
I would like to note the contribution of our Russian scientist Vladimir Alexandrovich Cherlin. Of the 12 species of ephae known to the world, he is the author of 5 taxonomic groups (he was the first to describe them).
Lifestyle and habitat
You can generalize the location of all species and subspecies of this snake, saying that efa the snake is found in the arid regions of Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. On the post-Soviet territory (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan), one species of this genus is widespread - sandy epha, expressed by a subspecies - Central Asian.
They live in clay deserts, on endless sandy expanses among saxauls, as well as on river cliffs in thickets of bushes. In comfortable conditions for snakes, they are able to settle densely enough. For example, in the valley of the Murgab River, on an area of about 1.5 km, snake-catchers have mined more than 2 thousand eff.
After hibernation, they creep out in late winter - early spring (February-March). In cool time, in spring and autumn, they are active during the day, in hot summer - at night. For wintering they are located in October, while they do not hesitate to occupy other people's holes, robbing them from rodents. In addition, they can take refuge in cracks, gullies or on the soft slopes of cliffs.
Among other species, the sandy Epha stands out for its behavior. This energetic snake is distinguished by the fact that it is almost always in motion. She easily hunts for the nimble and small inhabitants of the desert. Even at the moment of digesting food, it does not stop moving.
Foreseeing the danger of the EFA begins to make a loud noise with scales on the body
Only in early spring can she allow herself to relax and lie in the sun longer, especially after eating. This is how the reptile recovers after winter. For a sandy ephae, it is not a prerequisite for hibernation. She continues to constantly move, hunt, actively exist in winter, especially if it is a warm time.
On a sunny winter day, she can often be seen basking on the rocks. Sandy Efa lives and hunts alone. However, there were observations of how these snakes overtook a large gerbil in three. They can coexist, however, how much they are attached to each other, or vice versa, has not yet been studied.
Efa loves to bury himself entirely in the sand, merging with it in color. At this moment, it is impossible to see it, and it is extremely dangerous. Actually, from this position, she often attacks the victim. This snake has little fear of people. Crawls into houses, outbuildings, cellars in search of food. There are known cases when f-fs settled right under the floor of a residential building.
They feed on small rodents, sometimes lizards, lake frogs, birds, green toads. They, like many snakes, have developed cannibalism. Efs eat small snakes. They also do not deny themselves the pleasure of eating locusts, darkling beetles, centipedes, scorpions. With pleasure he catches mice, chicks, eats bird eggs.
Reproduction and life expectancy
Most species of eff, especially African ones, are oviparous. Indian, as well as our familiar sandy Central Asian Efa are viviparous. Sexual maturity occurs at about the age of 3.5-4 years. Mating takes place in March-April, but in warm spring it can happen earlier.
If the efa does not go into hibernation, such as sandy, mating begins in February. Then the offspring is born at the end of March. This is the most dangerous time for local residents, where this cold-blooded one is found. At this point, the snake becomes especially aggressive and violent.
The entire mating season is short and stormy, it takes about 2-2.5 weeks. A little jealousy between males, violent fights, and now the winner is honored with the opportunity to be a father. True, at the time of mating, other males often adjoin them, curling into a wedding ball. It already turns out who is faster.
By the way, they never really bite rivals or girlfriends during the mating season. In the Sumbar Valley, our scientists on the expedition were surprised by a rare phenomenon for snakes. One warm January day, a local boy came running shouting "snake wedding".
They didn’t believe him, snakes do not wake up earlier than spring, even sand f-holes begin their process not earlier than February. However, we went to see. And they really saw a snake ball, like a creature, moving among the dry stalks of grass. Even at the moment of mating, they do not stop moving.
At the end of the gestation period (after 30-39 days), fertilized eggs inside herself, the female gives birth to small, 10-16 cm in size, snakes. Their number ranges from 3 to 16. As a mother, sandy Efa is very responsible, she can bite anyone who approaches the brood.
And she never eats her cubs, as some other snakes do. Young snakes grow rapidly and are almost immediately able to hunt themselves. They cannot yet catch a rodent, amphibian or bird, but they eat crunchy locusts and other insects and invertebrates with appetite.
The life span of a reptile is 10-12 years in nature. Yet the conditions that she chose for herself as habitat do not greatly contribute to longevity. They live much less in terrariums. Sometimes ffs die 3-4 months after being imprisoned.
These snakes are the least likely to be kept in zoos. All because they need to constantly move, they can hardly tolerate limited space. Fidget snake, here's how you can say about this reptile.
What if bitten by an efa?
The efa snake is poisonous, so a person should be very careful when meeting it. You should not approach her, try to catch her, tease her. She herself will not attack a person, she will only try to warn. She takes a defensive posture "plate" - two half rings with a head in the middle, we have already mentioned that this pose is similar to the letter "F".
The rings rub against each other, and the side jagged scales make a loud rustling sound. Moreover, the more agitated the reptile, the louder the sound. For this she is called the "noisy snake." Most likely, at this moment she is trying to say - "do not come to me, I will not touch you if you do not bother me."
A poisonous reptile does not attack itself unnecessarily if it is not disturbed. Defending itself and its offspring, the deadly animal throws out a muscular body with lightning speed, putting all its strength and fury into this throw. Moreover, this throw can be quite high and long.
Ephae's bite very dangerous, after it 20% of people die. The lethal dose of the poison is about 5 mg. Has a hemolytic effect (dissolves red blood cells in the blood, destroys the blood). After receiving a bite, a person begins to bleed heavily from the wound at the site of the bite, from the nose, ears and even the throat.
It inhibits the action of the protein fibrinogen, which is responsible for blood clotting. If a person manages to survive an ephae bite, they may have serious kidney problems for the rest of their lives.
If you get bitten by an efa:
- Try not to move, muscle contractions increase the rate at which the poison is absorbed.
- Try to suck at least some of the venom out of the wound. Just not with your mouth, but use a rubber bulb or a disposable syringe from the first aid kit.
- Take antihistamines and pain relievers from the medicine cabinet (except aspirin, efa poison is already blood thinning).
- Drink as much water as possible.
- Go to the hospital as soon as possible.
- Apply a tourniquet
- Cauterize the bite site
- Chip a bite with a solution of potassium permanganate
- Making incisions next to the bite
- Drinking alcohol.
But still snake venom undoubtedly contributes to medicine. Like any poison, it is a valuable medicine in small doses. Its hemolytic properties can be used to combat thrombosis. It is part of pain relieving ointments (such as Viprazide).
On the basis of this poison, injections are made that help with hypertension, sciatica, neuralgia, osteochondrosis, polyarthritis, rheumatism, migraine. Now they are developing a medicine that can help even with cancer and diabetes.
And of course, serums and vaccines against snake bites are made on its basis. It remains to add that the venom of the epha, like any snake, is not fully understood, it is a complex complex of different components.Therefore, it is still used only in a purified form (separated).