Copperhead

Agkistrodon contortrix

Summary 6

Agkistrodon contortrix is a species of venomous snake endemic to North America, a member of the Crotalinae (pit viper) subfamily. The common name for the species is the copperhead. The behavior of Agkistrodon contortrix may lead to accidental encounters with humans. Five subspecies are currently recognized, including the nominate subspecies described here.

Morphology 7

Average length of adult copperheads is 30 inches. They have an unmarked copper-colored head, reddish-brown, coppery bodies with chestnut brown crossbands that constrict towards the midline. Copperheads are thick-bodied and have keeled scales.

There is a temperature sensitive pit organ on each side of the head between the eye and the nostril. There is a single row of scales beneath the tail (Schmidt 1941, Tyning 1990).

Tails have no rattle (Ernst 1989).

Young copperheads are 7-10 inches long and grayer in color than adults. They have a sulfur yellow tipped tail, which fades with age and is lost by age 3 or 4.

Copperheads are sexually dimorphic in size. Males have longer tails than females and females grow to greater lengths (Tyning 1990).

The head of the Northern Copperhead is a red, copper color with the rest of its body being pinkish to gray-brown with a dark chestnut colored hourglass shaped pattern. The hourglass pattern is narrow on the top of its back and wider on its sides. It has elliptical pupils and facial pits between its eyes and nostrils (Ohio DNR 1999).

The underside, belly area, of the northern subspecies is dark (Schmidt & Davis 1941).

The southern copperhead subspecies is similar to the northern copperhead but the coloration is paler and the crossbands fail to meet at the midline. Also the belly of the southern subspecies is light in color (Schmidt & Davis 1941).

Broad-banded copperheads have bright coloration with a sharp contrast between the pattern and the ground color. The crossbands are very broad at the midline and always meet. The belly is dark (Schmidt and Davis 1941).

The osage copperhead is similar to those of the northern subspecies but the crossbands are often edged in white (Conant and Collins 1998).

The belly of the Trans-pecos Copperhead is strongly patterned. Also there is a pale area located at the base of each broad crossband (Conant and Collins 1998).

Other Physical Features: heterothermic

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Jerry Oldenettel, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), http://www.flickr.com/photos/7457894@N04/3614626319
  2. (c) 2011 Todd Pierson, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?seq_num=390237&one=T
  3. (c) 2011 Todd Pierson, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?seq_num=345983&one=T
  4. (c) 2011 Todd Pierson, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?seq_num=345989&one=T
  5. Public Health Image Library, no known copyright restrictions (public domain), https://phil.cdc.gov/PHIL_Images/8128/8128_lores.jpg
  6. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agkistrodon_contortrix
  7. (c) The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), http://eol.org/data_objects/31375214

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