Vipera aspis is a moderate-sized snake, growing to
an adult length of between 70 to 90 centimeters, with a relatively
thick body. Males are normally larger than females. The snake is
distinguished by its broad triangular head, delineated from the
body by a covering of small scales, and by its vertical pupils.
The dorsal markings vary between individuals and sub-species but
in general take the form of a dark brown or black zigzag. This species
is viviparous. When threatened, it will hiss and make small forward
jerking motions with its head.
Vipera asps can be found throughout many countries north of the
Mediterranean, particularly France, Andorra, northeastern Spain,
extreme southwestern Germany, Italy, Switzerland and northwestern
Slovenia. It is particularly common at moderate altitudes within
the Alps and Pyrenees. It favors warm, dry environments such as
south-facing rocky surfaces and river banks exposed to the sun.
However, it is also to be found in marshy areas or woodlands.
Like all members of the Viperidae, Vipera aspis is venomous, armed
with poison glands connected to curved fangs which enable it to
inject venom deeply into the tissues of its prey, which typically
comprises small mammals or fledgling birds. At rest the fangs lie
towards the back in folds of skin within the mouth. The venom contains
a hemotoxin which causes cardiac arrest in the victim.
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