Replacement of fangs in a free-ranging desert viperid, Cerastes vipera

Itay Tesler, Jaim Sivan, Abraham Allan Degen, Michael Kam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Venomous viperid snakes possess relatively large and fragile hollow fangs that are an integral part of the envenomation apparatus for predation. We hypothesized that fangs serve like disposable needles and predicted a high loss rate and, hence, high replacement rate in free-ranging snakes. Snakes also possess smaller rear teeth that aid in gripping and swallowing the prey. We reasoned that these teeth are less delicate than fangs and predicted that their loss would be at a slower rate than fangs. To test our predictions, we analyzed fecal samples of free-ranging Saharan sand vipers, Cerastes vipera, in the Northern Negev desert, Israel. Close to 25% of fecal samples contained fangs, averaging more than one fang per sample and, consequently, our first prediction was supported. We estimated that fangs are replaced each fourth predation, and that replacement rate under natural conditions is at a high rate of approximately every twenty days. Fecal samples contained rear teeth at the same proportion as fangs, which indicated that the rapid replacement of teeth was not limited only to fangs and, therefore, our second prediction was not supported. These findings reflect the importance of both front fangs and rear teeth in the hunting of prey in free-ranging C. vipera. This is the first quantitative report of fang and rear teeth loss in a free-ranging viperid which is based on their recovery in feces; and we believe that similar high rates of loss occur in other viperid species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number126013
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • Envenomation apparatus
  • Fecal samples
  • Predator
  • Rear teeth
  • Sit-and-wait ambusher

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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