Skip to main content
Select Source:

pit viper

pit viper, poisonous snake of the family Crotalidae, primarily a New World family. Like the Old World true vipers (family Viperidae), pit vipers have long, hollow, erectile fangs that are folded back against the roof of the mouth except when the snake is striking. In addition, the pit vipers have developed special organs of heat reception that help them to sense warm-blooded animals, an ability that is especially useful at night, when many of them hunt. These organs consist of pits, for which the group is named, located just behind the nostrils and covered with a temperature-sensitive membrane. Some pit vipers may also use these organs to find cool refuges from inhospitable daytime temperatures.

The largest group of pit vipers is the rattlesnake genus Crotalus, found in North, Central, and N South America. Other New World forms are the fer-de-lance (genus Bothrops) and the bushmaster (genus Lachesis). The genus Ancistrodon includes the copperhead and water moccasin, as well as about a dozen Asian species. Pit vipers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Reptilia, family Crotalidae.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pit viper." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 9 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pit viper." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 9, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pit-viper

"pit viper." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 09, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pit-viper

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Crotalidae

Crotalidae (pit vipers; order Squamata, suborder Serpentes) A family of venomous snakes which are closely related to true vipers (Viperidae) but which have heat-sensitive pit organs just behind the nostrils. Their diet consists mainly of birds and small mammals. Tail-rattling mechanisms have been developed in advanced forms (rattlesnakes); these are formed from loosely connected horny segments more of which are added to the ‘rattle’ at each moult. Crotalus horridus (timber rattlesnake) grows up to 1.8 m long and occurs in woodland in the eastern USA. C. cerastes (sidewinder) is small (up to 60 cm) and occurs in the deserts of the southwestern USA; it has a small horn above each eye and its common name is derived from its method of locomotion across soft sand: it proceeds diagonally by throwing its body forward in loops (‘sidewinding’ also occurs in some vipers). There are approximately 130 species in the family, occurring in the Americas and tropical Asia.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Crotalidae." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Encyclopedia.com. 9 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Crotalidae." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 9, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/crotalidae

"Crotalidae." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Retrieved December 09, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/crotalidae

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

pit vipers

pit vipers See CROTALIDAE.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pit vipers." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Encyclopedia.com. 9 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pit vipers." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 9, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pit-vipers

"pit vipers." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Retrieved December 09, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pit-vipers

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.