Cottonmouth snakes are included in the family of venomous snakes know as vipers or viperidae as it’s referred to in the scientific world. Vipers are found all over the globe except for some extremely cold regions like Antarctica and some very isolated areas of the globe likeHawaii.
All vipers share some common characteristics. One common characteristic for example are the hollowed out hypodermic needle like hinged fangs that they’re equipped with. The fangs in general for vipers are generally pretty large fangs compared to other families of venomous snakes. They are able to comfortably house these large fangs because they’re hinged and not fixed and can lay their fangs down comfortably inside their mouth’s facing towards the rear. When they strike the fangs come alive and swing forward nearly a full 180 degrees which gives vipers the ability to deliver a very deep penetrating bite.
Something that’s very interesting is that studies have shown that vipers have the ability to inject various amounts of venom decided on based on the situation they encounter. Generally speaking larger vipers will have the ability to deliver that much more venom than a smaller species like the copperhead snake or the eyelash viper ofCentral South America. Several factors will determine the amount of venom to deploy from the size of the prey to different types of prey items. Take for example when cottonmouth snakes prey on birds, it’s been studied and confirmed that bites on birds are always very heavy on venom and the thinking behind that is that cottonmouths know that birds if not killed quickly simply fly away and die elsewhere robbing the snake of its well deserved meal.
Breaking the viper family down even further into subfamilies and you’ll see that the cottonmouth snake is part of the crotalinae family also known as the “Pit Viper” family. Now the pit vipers also carry some common characteristics which are the deep pits located between the nose and eye. These pits are infrared sensors which give vipers the ability to see prey at night as well as the ability to determine strike distance and the size of prey items.
Pit Vipers are found in Europe,Indonesia,Taiwanas well as theAmerica’s fromCanadaall the way down toSouth America.
When it comes to reproduction most pit vipers give birth to live offspring with just a few exceptions like the South American bushmaster which is an egg layer. The water moccasin does stick to the general rule and gives birth to a litter of 6-12 live young.
In the past pit vipers were classifieds as their own species but it wasn’t until here recently they were classified as a sub-species in the viper family.