Only recently recognised as a distinct species, variations in the scales on the head led to the Oman saw-scaled viper (Echis omanensis) being split from the wider ranging Palestine saw-scaled viper (Echis coloratus) (3). The head is broad, with large eyes featuring vertical-slit pupils, and jaws that bear long, hinged, hollow fangs capable of administering a highly toxic venom (2). The overall colouration is grey or grey-brown, with paler blotches on the upper surface, running down the spine. Each blotch is surrounded by a dark border, which may extend laterally over the flanks, merging with a series of dark bands that run along each side. The underside is yellowish-white or greyish-white, and marked with indistinct dots in some individuals (3).
Active in the early morning and afternoon, and possibly throughout the night, the Oman saw-scaled viper will commonly take up a position around a pool of water in order to ambush prey, such as toads (2)(3). Prey is taken by means of a lightning-fast strike, in which the venom is administered, after which the prey is released to die from its effects, before being swallowed whole (2). In addition, to toads, this species is likely to feed on a range of other vertebrates and invertebrates, including birds and possibly also wadi fish that have become stranded in drying pools (2)(3). Like other saw-scaled vipers, when threatened this species will rub opposing coils of its body together, which produces a characteristic sawing sound due to the scales’ keeled surfaces. This is thought to help conserve valuable moisture that would be lost by hissing (4). Little is known about the Oman saw-scaled viper’s reproduction, although it is likely to be similar to that of its close relative, the Palestine saw-scaled viper. Therefore, rather than producing live young like most vipers, this species probably lays a small clutch of eggs (4).
As a recently recognised species (3), there is currently very little information concerning any potential threats faced by the Oman saw-scaled viper. Nevertheless, as it has a restricted range (3), it is possible that its population may be relatively small.
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