The Diamondback Rattlesnake is the largest venomous reptile in North America. Details about this amazing creature such as its habitat, diet, appearance, reproduction, etc., are mentioned in this article.
Diamondback Rattlesnakes belong to the family Crotalidae and are also the largest of all venomous reptiles found in North America. These snakes are very aggressive and also very easily excitable. They cause more fatalities in the United States than any other snake.
They are highly defensive and use their rattles as a means to display warning. The rattles can activate between 40 to 60 cycles per second. These rattlesnakes are identified based on the location that they are found in:
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake: These snakes (Crotalus atrox) are found in the arid Southwestern deserts. They habitat dry, shrub covered terrain where they can conceal themselves.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake: These snakes (Crotalus adamanteus) are found primarily in North Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida. They prefer high humidity and have been seen swimming in the salt water in the Florida keys.
The color of Diamondback rattlesnakes ranges from a yellowish gray, pale blue, or a pinkish ground color. Diamond shapes with pale white borders are present along the length of the snake's body. The tail of the snake is white with jet black rings.
The markings on the head include a pale oblique band starting from the nostrils right up to the upper labials. A similar, but narrower band is present behind the eye.
These snakes are about 1.5 meters in length and can weigh up to 7 kilograms. The body of the snake is rather plump with a broad triangular head and a short tail. They also have a pit organ which is located in an indentation of the upper jaw in between the nostril and the eye.
The pit is approximately 5 millimeters deep and has an outer and inner chamber that is separated by a thin membrane. This membrane can sense even very slight differences between the snake's inner and surrounding temperatures.
A rattle is present at the end of the tail. Each link on the rattle is the remains of a molted skin. As the snake molts, the last scale becomes loose, but does not fall off. As the snake becomes older, the new rattles are formed with each molt and the old rattle simultaneously falls off. The fangs are long and tubular.
Diamondback rattlesnakes prey on small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and small fish. The snake uses the venom to kill the prey before eating it. They swallow their prey whole and then digest the food as it passes through the body. They need to eat only once every 2 to 3 weeks.
The annual intake of water in these snakes is equal to the weight of the body. Some water is assimilated from the prey and some is absorbed during shedding due to desiccation and evaporation.
The venom is cytotoxic in nature and is also referred to as hemotoxic venom. The venom attacks the blood and prevents coagulation, and at the same time it also destroys the blood vessels of the victim.
The snake fangs have a hollow cavity running along the majority of its length just like a hypodermic needle. Venom enters the fangs of the snake from the venom gland via a duct and travels down the hollow canal from where it is pumped into the prey with the help of incredibly sharp-pointed tips of the fangs.
These snakes reach sexual maturity at age 3 and mating occurs during spring right after the snakes emerge from hibernation. The female snakes are very passive during the courtship. The copulation can last for several hours, which also consist of several resting periods.
These snakes are ovoviviparous that is the eggs remain inside the snakes body right until the hatch or are ready to hatch. The gestation period lasts for six to seven moths and the snake gives birth to about an average of a dozen young ones.
The young snakes are often born between July and early October and the neonates are about 30-36 centimeters in length. They are very similar to the adult snakes in appearance except for the fact that the neonates have only a small button at the tip of their rattle instead of a full rattle.
The young snakes stay with the mothers for a few days and sometimes only for a few hours before setting off on their own to hunt and find their own recluse. Hence the mortality rate is very high.