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Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Cladus: Craniata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Lepidosauromorpha
Superordo: Lepidosauria
Ordo: Squamata
Subordo: Serpentes
Infraordo: Caenophidia
Superfamilia: Viperoidea

Familia: Viperidae
Subfamilia: Azemiopinae
Genus: Azemiops
Species: Azemiops feae

Azemiops Boulenger, 1888
Vernacular names
Deutsch: Fea-Viper
English: Fea Viper
ไทย: งูพิษเฟีย

Azemiopinae is the name of a monogeneric subfamily created for the genus Azemiops that contains the venomous viper species A. feae and A. kharini.[2] No subspecies are recognized.[3] The first specimen was collected by Italian explorer Leonardo Fea, and was described as a new genus and new species by Boulenger in 1888.[4] Formerly considered to be one of the most primitive vipers,[5] molecular studies have shown that it is the sister taxon to the pit vipers, Crotalinae.[6][7] It is found in the mountains of Southeast Asia[8] in China, southeastern Tibet and Vietnam.[4] Common names are Fea's vipers.[4]


Neither species grows to 1 m in length. According to Liem et al. (1971), the maximum length is 77 cm, while Orlov (1997) described a male and a female measuring 72 cm and 78 cm, respectively.[4]

It is considered to be the most primitive of all viperids for a number of reasons. It has a reasonably sturdy body and a short tail, but the dorsal scales are smooth rather than keeled like those of most vipers. The head, which is slightly flattened and more elliptical in shape than triangular, is not covered with numerous small scales like most other vipers, but with large shields like the colubrids and the elapids. Also, the skull is built differently. It does, however, have a pair of hollow, rotating fangs, although these are short. The fangs have a ridge at the tip lateral to the discharge orifice, as well as a blade-like structure on the ventral surface otherwise seen only in some opistoglyphous and atractaspid snakes. The venom glands are relatively small. Finally, unlike most vipers, Fea's viper is oviparous and hibernates during the winter.[4]

The color pattern of Fea's viper is striking; dorsally, its basic body color is a shiny, deep blue-gray to black, marked by a number of widely spaced, thin (one or two scales), white-orange crossbands. The head is orange to slightly yellow with a distinct cross-pattern outlined in gray. The eyes are yellowish with vertical pupils.[4] Ventrally, it is olive-gray, with some small, lighter spots. The chin and throat are variegated with yellow.

The smooth dorsal scales are arranged in 17 rows at midbody. The anal plate is entire (undivided), but the subcaudals are in two rows (divided). Ventral count is around 180, subcaudals around 40.

Internasals and prefrontals are subequal in length. Their length is between 0.7 and 1.0 m long. The frontal is slightly broader than long, nearly three times as broad as the supraocular. Parietals are as long as their distance from the end of the snout. The loreal scale is small, pentagonal, and as tall as long. Two (or three) preoculars, and two postoculars are present, and two large superposed anterior temporals occur, but only the upper in contact with the postoculars. It has six upper labials, the first and second are smallest, the third enters the eye, and the fourth and fifth are largest. It has seven lower labials, the first is large and forms a suture with its fellow, and the second is small. It has one pair of short chin shields.[9]
Geographic range

These snakes range from northern Vietnam through southern China (Fujian, Guangxi, Jiangxi, Guizhou, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang), southeast Myanmar and southeast Tibet. The type locality is listed as "Kakhien Hills" (Kachin Hills), Myanmar.[10] The two species are separated by the Red River, with A. kharini to the east and A. feae to the west.

Found in mountainous regions at altitudes up to 1000 m, they prefer cooler climates, with an average temperature of 20-25 °C. Sometimes, they are found on roadsides, in straw and grass, in rice fields, and even in and around homes. In Vietnam, their preferred habitat is described as forests of bamboo and tree ferns, with clearings, where the forest floor is covered with rotting vegetation, with plenty of rock outcroppings and many open and subterranean streams. The species is crepuscular, and prefers very moist environments for shelter.[4]

This snake has a characteristic threat display. When disturbed, it flattens its body to make itself look wider, and its jaws flare outwards posteriorly, giving the normally ovoid head a triangular shape. Sometimes, it vibrates its tail. Ultimately, it will strike, during which it may or may not use its fangs. As opposed to Orlov (1997), who stated this species is nocturnal, Zhao et al. (1981) reported it to be crepuscular, active from early March into late November.[4]

They apparently feed on small mammals. A captured, immature specimen was found to have eaten a common gray shrew (Crocidura attenuata). In captivity, these snakes are reported to be reluctant feeders, but when they did feed, they took newborn mice, and then only at night. On several occasions when feeding was observed, the prey was not released after being struck.[4]

The venom profile of Fea's viper is remarkably similar to that of Wagler's viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri).[11] Another study found the enzyme activities in A. feae venom-gland extract are similar to those of viperine venoms, but its venom does not cause blood clotting, haemorrhagic, or myolytic activities. [12]

Lau M, Rao D-q (2012). "Azemiops feae ". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012: e.T190641A1955758. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012-1.RLTS.T190641A1955758.en.
Pskhun (18 July 2013). "Species New to Science: [Herpetology • 2013] Azemiops kharini - White-head Burmese Viper • On the Taxonomy and the Distribution of Snakes of the Genus Azemiops Boulenger, 1888 (Ophidia: Viperidae: Azemiopinae): Description of a New Species from northeast Vietnam and southeast China". Retrieved 11 April 2018.
"Azemiops feae ". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 23 August 2006.
Mallow D, Ludwig D, Nilson G (2003). True Vipers: Natural History and Toxinology of Old World Vipers. Krieger Publishing Company. 359 pp. ISBN 0-89464-877-2.
Mehrtens JM (1987). Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
Wüster, Wolfgang; Peppin, Lindsay; Pook, Catharine E; Walker, Daniel E (2008-11-01). "A nesting of vipers: Phylogeny and historical biogeography of the Viperidae (Squamata: Serpentes)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 49 (2): 445–459. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2008.08.019. ISSN 1055-7903. PMID 18804544.
Alencar, Laura RV; Quental, Tiago B; Grazziotin, Felipe G; Alfaro, Michael L; Martins, Marcio; Venzon, Mericien; Zaher, Hussam (2016-12-01). "Diversification in vipers: Phylogenetic relationships, time of divergence and shifts in speciation rates". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 105: 50–62. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2016.07.029. ISSN 1055-7903. PMID 27480810.
U.S. Navy (1991). Poisonous Snakes of the World. New York: U.S. Government / Dover Publications Inc. 203 pp. ISBN 0-486-26629-X.
Boulenger, GA. 1896. pp. 470-471.
McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T (1999). Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Volume 1. Washington, District of Columbia: Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
"Dr. Bryan Grieg Fry: Viper Research". Archived from the original on 2006-05-11. Retrieved 2006-04-21.

Mebs, D.; Kuch, U.; Meier, J. (October 1994). "Studies on venom and venom apparatus of Fea's viper, Azemiops feae". Toxicon. 32 (10): 1275–1278. doi:10.1016/0006-2952(75)90029-5. PMID 8.

Further reading

Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Azemiops feae, p. 88).
Boulenger GA (1888). "An Account of the Reptilia obtained in Burma, North of Tenasserim, by M[onsieur]. L. Fea, of the Genoa Civic Museum". Annali del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Genova, Second Series 6: 593-604. (Azemiops, new genus, p. 602; A. feae, new species, p. 603).
Boulenger GA (1896). Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Vol. III., Containing the Colubridæ (Opisthoglyphæ and Proteroglyphæ), Amblycephalidæ, and Viperidæ. London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xiv + 727 pp. + Plates I-XXV. (Genus Azemiops, p. 470; species A. feae, p. 471).
Liem KF, Marx H, Rabb GB (1971). "The viperid snake Azemiops: Its comparative cephalic anatomy and phylogenic position in relation to Viperinae and Crotalinae". Fieldiana: Zoology, Chicago 59: 67-126.
Kardong KV (1986)." Observations on live Azemiops feae, Fea’s viper". Herpetological Review 17 (4): 81-82.
Mara WP (199)3. Venomous Snakes of the World. Hong Kong: TFH Publications. 275 pp. ISBN 0-86622-522-6.
Marx H, Olechowski TS (1970). "Fea's viper and the common gray shrew: a distribution note on predator and prey". Journal of Mammalogy 51: 205.
Mebs D, Kuch U, Meier J (1994). "Studies on venom and venom apparatus of Feae's viper, Azemiops feae ". Toxicon 32 (10): 1275-1278.
Orlov N (1997). "Viperid snakes (Viperidae Bonaparte, 1840) of Tam-Dao mountain range". Russian Journal of Herpetology 4 (1): 67-74.
Zhao E-m, Zhao G (1981). "Notes on Fea's viper from China". Acta Herpetologica Sinica 5 (11): 66-71.

External links
Azemiops feae at the Reptile Database. Accessed 2 August 2007.
Fea's Viper at Life is Short but Snakes are Long
Video of Azemiops feae on YouTube. Accessed 25 May 2007.


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