Hello and welcome to another episode of Weird Biology with me, your host Bunjy! This week’s creature is hard to see and kind of dangerous, so we’re just going to watch our step as we-
OOP WATCH OUT! You almost stepped on him!
(You should be more careful, you could have really hurt his feelings.)
I'd like you to meet-
*Muffled hysterical laughter*
The Gaboon Viper is found in the forests and savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. Its boldly patterned scales are perfectly camouflaged against the forest floor, making it all but invisible. Its incredible striking speed and strength are renowned throughout the reptile world, and its venomous bite is powerful enough to kill even a grown man! Clearly, this is not a creature to be trifled with.
And it is, as they say in herpetologist circles, a Swarthy Lad.
As you may have noticed from the pictures, the Gaboon Viper is very, uh, wide. Like a pancake. A pan-snake, if you will. In fact, they’re so wide that their wikipedia page has an entire measurement category called “girth” just for them. (No, I’m not joking.) And it’s over 14 inches, if you were curious. That’s usually a measurement reserved for pizzas. There’s good reason for this, because the Gaboon Viper is the heftiest viper in the world! They generally reach only 4-5 feet long, but may weigh nearly twenty pounds. That’s completely ridiculous.
(That’s like a normal snake, if that normal snake had just eaten a couple of 7-pound free weights.)
Gaboon Vipers are at the top of the snake list for a lot of different qualities, as it turns out. It’s not just that manhole cover physique, this snake has the WHOLE package. They are known for being incredibly fast despite their size, and for wrestling prey to the ground with their sheer strength like it’s the last five seconds of a ladder match. But now get ready for a real double whammy- they have the longest fangs of any snake! OF ANY SNAKE. They also produce the most venom per bite of any snake! OF ANY SNAKE.
Wow! Isn't that great!
Those fangs are two inches long, for reference. Two inches. Let’s think about that for a minute.
Oookay we’re done thinking about that. So now let’s consider the fact that a Gaboon Viper can deliver up to 7 ml of venom per bite! Alright, so that doesn’t sound like a lot. But please remember that the lethal dose for a human is 0.06 ml. YIKES. Imagine carrying enough poison in your face to kill like a hundred people at once. And for a species that mostly eats small animals like rabbits, this is absolutely stupid amounts of overkill. Like, hunting-pigeons-with-a-rocket-launcher levels of overkill. (People probably would be into that if it was allowed, actually.)
Alright, so we’ve definitely laid out the facts that make Gaboon Vipers so terrifying. But now I’ll hit you with the good news! Human deaths from Gaboon Viper bites are very, very, very rare. And it’s because Gaboon Vipers are good boys. No seriously, some of that is because Gaboon Vipers live way out in the woods but it’s mostly because these snakes are some of the most laid-back reptiles in existence.
(Look at that sweet widdle faaace.)
Gaboon Vipers are tolerant, docile animals that are extremely unlikely to bite you. In fact, they’re so chillax that scientists have been able to pick them up barehanded and stick them in collection boxes. (WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS. SCIENTISTS ARE OFTEN A LITTLE NUTS.) Apparently the snakes just kind of went along with it. Maybe they were bored? Usually when people ARE bitten, it’s because they didn’t see the snake and actually stepped on it. And even then, stomping on a Gaboon Viper doesn’t always earn a bite. (BUT DON’T DO THAT. IT’S MEAN.) They’re sweet boys, is what I’m getting at here.
Thankfully, the Gaboon Viper is doing pretty okay! The species is still widely distributed, and has a conservation status of Least Concern. (It probably helps that they have so little conflict with humanity! Chillness is its own virtue.) It’s not often that I close a Weird Biology article with that kind of good news, so this deserves to be celebrated! Clap your hands and jump around a bit! Yaaay, Gaboon Viper! We love your chubby little face and your ridiculously chill lifestyle!
Maybe we could all take a lesson from the Gaboon Viper, and relax a little more.
1- Tim Vickers, Wikimedia Commons
2- Hectonichus, Wikimedia Commons
3- Tim Vickers, Wikimedia Commons