Ovophis monticola makazayazaya

Alishan Habu, Chinese Mountain Pitviper

阿 里山龜殼花 (a1li3shan1gui1ke3hua1)

Status: Protected (Cat. II)


Viperidae ; subfamily Crotalinae (Pitvipers)
Max. length
79 cm
Occurrence in Taiwan
Distribution records are sparse and patchy; no verified records exist from the years between 1930 and 1980. This species is thought to live at medium elevations all around Taiwan, but so far only very few single individuals have been found in a handful of locations, most of them in North Taiwan. Very rare.
Global Distribution
South China (Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hunan, Zhejiang), Taiwan, Vietnam
Small, stout snake; total length up to 79 cm. There are 19-31 (25-29 at mid-body) rows of scales, which are feebly keeled (or smooth) and rough except those on the flanks. Head is broad with blunt snout, roughly triangular, covered with small scales, and distinct from neck; body is stout or robust; tail is small. There is a prominent pit between eye and nostril. Eye is small to medium size, high on head, and forms slight bulge on upper head; iris is light brown to tan which blends with color of head. Pupil is oval or elliptical in vertical axis, black. Tongue is maroonish, with gray fork tips. Fangs are large, movable, in sheath in anterior part of upper jaw. Internasals are enlarged. Upper head is reddish-brown, occasionally with designs of darker brown of varying intensities; there is a dark, thick band extending from eye to corner of mouth and may be bordered by white stripes. Sides of head are black-and white mosaic. Upper body is also reddish-brown, with a series of large, diffuse and irregular cross bands of dark brown to black along vertebrate ridge and a spotted pattern laterally. Upper tail is dark brown and bears small white spots. Ventral surface is white to gray and densely marbled with dark brown or black which may form thick longitudinal lines on the sides. Anal scale is entire, and subcaudals are paired.
Biology & Ecology
This nocturnal pitviper inhabits mountain regions, often under leaf litter and stones. It feeds on small mammals. Females lay 3-18 eggs in summer and habitually protect them. Its venom contains hemorrhagic toxins.
This species is surprisingly cold-tolerant and has been found on the prowl at temperatures around 17°C.
Ovophis: from Latin ovum (egg) and ophis (snake), denoting an oviparous snake;
monticola is Latin for "inhabitant of the mountains" (mons = mountain, colere = to inhabit);
makazayazaya: after the southern Taiwan region called "Makazayazaya" (瑪家雑牙雑牙社) in the local Paiwan language;
Chinese name (阿里山龜殼花, a1li3shan1gui1ke3hua1): the type specimen was found on Taiwan's Mt. Ali, called "ali shan" (阿里山) in Chinese. 龜殼花 (gui1ke3hua1), literally "turtle shell pattern", means "habu", the Japanese term for a range of pitvipers (see also "Taiwan Habu" on this site).