A largely inactive species, the Mangshan pit viper is a terrestrial ambush predator, lying in wait along trails used by its mammalian prey (3), particularly rodents (1) (2) (3). The Mangshan pit viper is also known to feed on birds (1), frogs and insects (2) (3).
It is thought that, like other similar species, the Mangshan pit viper uses its white-tipped tail as a lure to attract potential prey. Viperids such as the Mangshan pit viper use a ‘strike and release’ strategy when hunting, rapidly injecting venom deep into the prey animal with their long fangs before letting go. The snake then locates its dying prey by using the special receptors on its flicking tongue. Toxins in the venom break down the proteins in the muscles and organs of the prey, gradually digesting it, and Mangshan pit viper venom is known to cause clotting, haemorrhaging and muscle damage in humans and cattle. The Mangshan pit viper itself has few predators in the wild, although young snakes may be vulnerable to certain carnivores (3).
The Mangshan pit viper is an oviparous species (1) (2) (5), laying up to 27 eggs per clutch (1) (3), usually in June and July (1). Each egg is about 3 centimetres in diameter and weighs up to 40 grams. The eggs, which have a soft, leathery shell, are laid within leaf litter on the ground, and in captivity they hatch after a period of 49 to 51 days. Although the Mangshan pit viper is generally known to be a relatively calm and shy snake, females of this species will aggressively defend their eggs when necessary, until the 40-centimetre-long hatchlings emerge. The lifespan of the Mangshan pit viper is not currently known, but other similar species live for around 25 years (3).
Although the Mangshan pit viper is considered to be a terrestrial species, it is able to crawl into trees (3).