Foraging behavior and predation success of the sand viper (Cerastes vipera)

Aziz Subach*, Inon Scharf, Ofer Ovadia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Activity levels and foraging success of ectotherms are dependent both on extrinsic factors (e.g., ambient temper-ature) and intrinsic factors (e.g., hunger level). We focus here on activity and foraging of sand vipers (Cerastes vipera (L., 1758)) (Squamata: Viperidae) in the northwestern Negev desert of Israel. Viper activity is bounded by a specific thermal range, but within this range, temperature does not affect the distance moved. Movement distances are, however, positively correlated with relative humidity. The capture success of lizards, the main prey of this viper, is strongly related both to movement distances of the snake and to the number of the lizard burrows scanned. Body size and shape have a direct ef-fect on the number of burrows scanned and on the number of lizards captured. The increase in capture success with size is probably due to the consequent increase in the range of prey items the sand viper can subdue or handle. Vipers are larger and have a higher mass to length ratio in one of the three study sites, characterized by higher mean annual rainfall and vegetation cover. Finally, females tend to have a higher mass to length ratio than males, which may provide some space within the female body for reproductive materials such as eggs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-528
Number of pages9
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


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