Genus: Crotalus and Sistrurus (More than 50 different Species)
- Found in all South American countries – except Ecuador and Chile – and some Caribbean islands.
- Two enlarged venom fangs fixed to the front of the mouth.
- Solid teeth in both jaws.
- Different species of rattlesnake vary significantly in size and markings.
- Larger species can be as long as 2.5metres.
- Common feature is the ‘rattle’ on the end of their tails.
- Rattlesnakes shed their skin several times a year and each time they shed a new segment is added to their ‘rattle’.
- Highly poisonous. Normally haemotoxic – (destroys red blood cells) – although some of the tropical species have neurotoxic venom – (damaging to nerve tissue) - and potentially fatal.
- Generally fang marks at the site of the bite.
- Swelling and bruising develops round the bite site – speed of development depends on amount of venom injected.
- Rattlesnakes give live birth rather than lay eggs.
- Young rattlesnakes are independent and self-sufficient from birth.
- Most rattlesnakes mate in the spring.
- Newborn rattlesnakes do not have ‘working rattles’. It is only after their first skin shedding that their rattles function.
- Typically live in dry savannah.
- Rattlesnakes will, generally, move away from humans they encounter – but not always! Generally they only attack if cornered or provoked.
- Diet consists largely of small animals such as rabbits, rats, mice etc.
- Rattlesnakes kill their prey by injecting them with venom rather than constricting them.
- Unusually, these snakes can strike without pulling themselves into the ‘S’ shape that most snakes do. They also attack as far as two thirds of their length away from them.
- Rattlesnakes are often found in and under boulders and logs as well as sunning themselves in the middle of trails.
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