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Asia Snakes Species Profiles

Mangrove Pit Viper (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus)

Taking close-up photos of venomous snakes is always my kind of adrenaline booster. This one was even more exciting with me knowing the fact that there’s no antivenin specifically made for this snake. Bites are treated with polyvalent antivenin in SE Asian hospitals.

The Mangrove pit viper (a.k.a. Mangrove viper, Shore pit viper, or Purple-spotted pit viper) is a small venomous snake growing to 66-90 centimeters (26-35 in). It is native to Singapore, West Malaysia, Sumatra and Java of Indonesia, Thailand, India, Burma, and Bangladesh.

You don’t always have to be the brightest one to stand out from the crowd. Take a look at this dark horse.

It may look black to the untrained eye. But if you look carefully it is a very dark purple hue, hence its Latin name purpureomaculatus. You may think that with such a dark color this must be a subtle snake trying to look just like most other snakes. But it is in fact so special being the darkest species in its genus (Asian pit vipers – Trimeresurus).

Being dark is rare, while all its cousins are bright.

Although few exceptional ones can be bright yellow or bright blue such as the Sunda Island pit viper, over 90% of species in this genus are bright green, including the Bamboo pit viper which is the most common species in the genus and was also described by British zoologist John Edward Gray. Even though it is more well-known than other Asian pit vipers nowadays, back then it was first known to science a good decade after the much more subtle-looking Mangrove pit viper was. The dark color didn’t help much from being discovered. This is the fifth species to be described (1832) in the entire genus of 50 species of Asian pit vipers.

There used to be 2 subspecies – this one (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus purpureomaculatus) and another one that is endemic to the Andaman Islands of India (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus andersoni) which is now separated and classified as a full species named Andaman pit viper (Trimeresurus andersonii) a.k.a. Nicobar mangrove pit viper or Anderson’s pitviper.

Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus (Gray, 1832)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Genus: (Cryptelytrops) Trimeresurus
Species: purpureomaculatus