A large adder full of olfactory surprises



Bitis arietans photo © Johannes van Rooyen 


Bitis arietans photo © 4028mdk09 


The puffadder has been found to be odourless – even to the extremely sensitive noses of carnivores such as the domestic dog – when lying immobile. This scentlessness together with its camouflage makes the snake hard to detect – via olfaction as well as vision – by both prey and predator. However, an uninvestigated possibility is that the puffadder exhales strong-smelling air when it reacts to confrontation by puffing – shocking predatory mammals enough to give the snake time to escape. This might explain why the puffing sound after which the species is named seems too soft to do justice to the lethal hazard of the puffadder’s bite.


Robin and the Honey Badger, 22 March 2016




Bitis arietans photo © Julius Rückert