Top 10 Mangshan Pit Viper Facts – A Viper With A Dwindling Population

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Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Protobothrops mangshanensis

Common Names: Mangshan Pit Viper, Mang Mountain Pit Viper, Mt. Mang Pit Viper, Chinese Pit Viper, Ironhead Pit Viper

Geographic Range: China (Mt. Mangshan)

Life Span: Thought to be around 25 years. 

Conservation Status: Endangered

Top 10 List

1. Mangshan Pit Vipers are quite large green vipers.

A Manshang Pit Viper
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Mangshan Pit Vipers are a quite large viper. They can grow up to 7 feet (203 cm) in length, and around 7 – 11 pounds (3 – 5 kg), however some can even weigh more than that. Males tend to have slightly longer tails than the females, while the females tend to be more robust and heavier.

Their colouration can range from a beautiful grass-green to an equally as beautiful yellow green, with brown blotches that run down their sides and back. The last 4 inches (10cm) of their tails are a bright white colour.

Their eyes match their skin colouration, and are also various shades of green. As with most pit vipers they have large triangular heads, with pits between the eye and nostril. They also have tube like fangs, that are an average of .8 inches (2cm) long. 

2. Mangshan vipers prefer to live in wet forests.

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Mangshan Pit Vipers can generally be found in elevations between 700 – 1300 m. They can also be found in montane, subtropical mixed needle-leaf and broadleaf forests. They prefer steep, wet terrain in generally undisturbed mature forests. Trees that can be found in their habitat include maple, camphor, oak, and bamboo. 

In the winter the temperatures drop down to freezing, and can go as low as 5°C (41°F). Alternatively, in the summer the temperatures can rise to be around 30°C (86°F).

3. These vipers are only found in a very specific area in China. 

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Mangshan Vipers have a very specific geographic range. They can be found in only two areas. The first is where they got their name – the Mangshan Mountain range and surrounding areas. The second is Ruyuan, Guangdong Province. It is thought that they are only found in an area the size of 300km².

4. They are nocturnal, terrestrial Vipers.

Mangshan-Viper (Protobothrops mangshanensis)

Mangshan Vipers were discovered as recently as 1989, so they are still a fairly recent discovery. They are a nocturnal, terrestrial species that spends their nights on the forest floor hunting for dinner. While they are generally a shy and calmer viper, females will very aggressively defend their eggs and nest. When agitated or started they will open their mouth and gape, as well as let out a warning hiss.  

5. Mangshan Pit Vipers feed primarily on mammals, birds, insects, and frogs.

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Mangshan Pit Vipers are terrestrial ambush predators, meaning they find a spot on or near the ground to hide and wait for prey to pass them, after which they strike. They also have a white-tipped tail that they may use in order to attract prey to them. They generally consume a mix of mammals (such as rodents), birds, insects, and frogs. Mangshan Vipers use a strike and release strategy for hunting, using their venom to kill the prey and help digest their food. They also use their tongue-flicking to track prey after they strike – even ones born in captivity will do this. 

6. Unlike most Pit Vipers the Mangshan Pit Viper lays eggs.

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Most pit vipers are live bearers, however the Mangshan Pit Viper lays eggs. Up to 27 eggs that are around 1.2 inches (30mm) in length will be laid in a nest of leaf litter by the female, who will then aggressively guard the nest and eggs until the eggs have hatched. The eggs will hatch after around 49 – 51 days of incubation. 

Hatchling Mangshan Pit Vipers weigh around 28 – 38 grams, and are around 16 inches (40cm) in length. Their colouration is generally lighter when hatched, and will darken to their final colouration with age. 

7. As with all Pit vipers, the Mangshan Pit Viper is venomous.

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As mentioned above, Mangshan Pit Vipers are a venomous snake. The venom has toxins that can cause clotting, and bleeding in humans, as well as muscle damage and swelling. Mangshan Pit Vipers do not have a specific anti-venom developed specifically for them, however other anti-venoms may be able to be used. A large amount of venom can be injected from just a single fang – around 960 mg at once.

Sunlight can cause degradation in Mangshan venom, however they have protective melanin in their scales around their venom sacs to prevent damage to the venom. They use their venom to kill their prey, and help them digest said prey. 

8.  The Mangshan Pit Viper was named after the Mangshan Mountain in which it is endemic. 

The Mangshan Pit Viper was named after, you guessed it, the Mangshan Mountain in which they reside. In mandaring the words mang means python, and shan means mountain. And when put together it means Python mountain, a name which was given to the mountain due to its snake-like appearance. 

Part of their scientific name, Protobothtops is a mix of Greek words that mean ‘before’, ‘pit’, and ‘eye’. This is thought to be hinting at the heat-sensitive depressions between the pit vipers eye and nostril. These depressions allow them to sense heat and detect prey for hunting. 

9. There are many threats that contribute to the decline in the Mangshan Viper population. 

since the Mangshan Viper has such a small geographic range and population (thought to be around 500), any threat to them can have large impacts. Between the 1950’s and 1980’s their range of livable habitat was reduced significantly due to illegal logging that was happening. Being occasionally hunted for food, and illegal collection for the pet trade has also had a significantly negative impact on their populations. 

10. Many countries have established breeding programs to help the endangered Pit Viper.

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The Mangshan Pit Viper has some protection through their presence in the Mangshan Natural Nature Reserve. They are also listed on Appendix II of CITES, which means the trade of this snake are monitored closely and controlled. 

Captive breeding programs to help the population have been established in countries such as Germany, USA, and China. Specifically, the San Diego Zoo has been working towards an established breeding program, and studbook. They have also been helping sponsor a conservation program being run in China. Due to all the efforts of various breeding programs, over 100 captive-bred babies have been hatched so far. 

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