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Russell's Viper Daboia russelii


February 3, 2013 12:10 PM IST


Russell's viper (Daboia russelii) is a species of venomous snake in the family Viperidae. Daboia is a monotypic genus of venomous Old World vipers. The single member species, D. russelii, is found in Asia throughout the Indian subcontinent, much of Southeast Asia, southern China and Taiwan.The species was named in honor of Patrick Russell (1726–1805),a Scottish herpetologist who first described many of India's snakes, and the name of the genus is from the Urdu word meaning "that lies hid", or "the lurker".Apart from being a member of the big four snakes in India, Daboia is also one of the genera responsible for causing the most snakebiteincidents and deaths among all venomous snakes on account of many factors, such as their wide distribution, generally aggressive demeanor, and frequent occurrence in highly populated areas.
D. russelii can grow to a maximum total length (body + tail) of 166 cm (5.5 ft) and averages about 120 cm (4 ft) on mainland Asian populations, although island populations may be slightly smaller on average. It is more slenderly built than most other vipers.
D. russelii is not restricted to any particular habitat, but does tend to avoid dense forests. The snake is mostly found in open, grassy or bushy areas, but may also be found in second growth forests (scrub jungles), on forested plantations and farmland. It is most common in plains, coastal lowlands, and hills of suitable habitat. 
D. russelii is terrestrial and active primarily as a nocturnal forager. However, during cool weather, it alters its behavior and becomes more active during the day.
D. russelii feeds primarily on rodents, especially murid species. However, it will eat just about anything; including rats, mice, shrews, squirrels, lizards, land crabs, scorpions, and other arthropods. Juveniles are crepuscular, feeding on lizards and foraging actively. As they grow and become adults, they begin to specialize in rodents. Indeed, the presence of rodents and lizards is the main reason they are attracted to human habitation