Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Fact File
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Kingdom:
Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus
What does the name mean? Crotalus is derived from the Latin word "Crotalum" which means "rattle". The word adamanteus is derived from either the Latin word "adamas" which refers to "a hard precious stone", or the Greek word "adamant" which means "unconquerable", "diamond", or "hard steel".
More than likely the name is derived from the Latin word "adamantinus" which means "made of diamond", or more aptly "having the qualities of a diamond". This would refer to the diamond-like shape of the patterns of the eastern diamondback rattlesnake.
Description: The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the largest of the 36 currently recognised species of the genus Crotalus, commonly referred to as rattlesnakes. These are heavy-bodied snakes (pit-vipers) with large broad heads and heavily keeled scales, and the well defined "rattle" forming the tip of the tail..
These snakes are the largest of all North American venomous snakes. Although records show indivividual sepcimens attaining lengths of 2.5m (8.2 ft), these are in fact rare and not well documented and cannot be authenticated.
In 1953 a reward was offered for any specimen brought in measuring over 2.4m (7.8ft). The reward was never claimed.
The average length for these snakes is 1.2m - 1.7m (3.9ft - 5.57ft).
Mature snakes can weigh around 4.5kg (10lbs) although the average weight for these snakes is around 2.5kg (5.51lbs).
The colour pattern consists of browns, olive-gray, brownish-yellow, or tan overlaid by a series of diamond-shaped (hence the name) markings (24-35) usually dark brown or black in colour with cream or yellowish borders.
The tail is usually a different shade from the body and the diamond-shapes are replaced by darker bands.
The head is broad and triangular in shape with a dark, almost black, stripe running diagonally through each eye. This postocular stripe is bordered by distinct yellowish or tan stripes.
The eye has a vertical (catlike) pupil.
There is no sexual dimorphism within this species with both the male and female having a similar appearance, although males are generally larger than their female counterparts.
Young eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are similar in appearance to the adults although the "rattle" is not yet developed.
Another distinguishing feature of all rattlesnakes is the large pit located between the eye and the nostril. As with all pit-vipers, these pits are sensitive to infra-red radiation (heat sensitive) and assists the snake in direction finding and locating warm-blooded prey or predators.
Venom: The venom is predominantly
This snake has a high venom yield with a maximum of 850mg-1000mg. The average yield however is between 380mg-450mg.
Between 100mg-150mg is considered to be fatal in humans.
The mortality rate resulting from a bite from this species is around 30%.
Large amounts of antivenom (Crofab) is required in severe envenomations.
Distribution: The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is restricted to the coastal plains of the southeastern United States. They occur from the southern parts of Northern Carolina to eastern Louisiana. They are more commonly found in Florida and Southern Georgia including the Florida keys.
Habitat: The species usually occurs in dry sandy areas, coastal dune forests, dry pine forest, mixed woodlands, palmetto or wiregrass flatwoods, salt marshes, wet prairies, and pinewoods.
Generally eastern diamondback rattlesnakes tend to avoid wet areas although they are adept swimmers and tolerate saltwater. This has allowed the species to colonise islands off the eastern United States coast.
Habits: Rattlesnakes are solitary in nature. During the mating season, however, males will engage in a form of ritualised combat to compete for females.
These are ambush predators and spend most of their time coiled in thick vegetation in wait of prey. They are primarily terrestrial but are accomplished climbers.
They are most active in the early morning and early evening (crepuscular).These snakes frequently use burrows excavated by mammals and gopher tortoises for shelter.
It is a common belief that all rattlesnakes hiberante, this is untrue. Hibernation occurs only in the regions with cold winters.
Another misconception is that rattlesnakes must "rattle" their tails prior to striking. This is of course untrue. Recent studies have shown that individuals that remain silent are more likely to remain unnoticed and therefore are less likely to be killed or preyed upon. The temperament of these snakes vary from each individual. Some individuals will allow you to approach them quite closely without retreating, or rattling, whilst others will start rattling at a distance of 10m (32ft).
As with all snakes, if given the opportunity, these snakes will retreat rather than confront a would-be predator. However, if cornered, this snake will strike repeatedly.
From personal experience I have found this species to be less "irritable" than other rattlesnakes.
When threatened the front half of the body is raised off the ground in a S-shaped coil ready to strike.
Reproduction: All rattlesnakes, including the eastern diamondback rattlesnake are ovoviviparous. Mating usually takes place in the late summer, or early autumn. As stated previously males engage in ritual combat prior to mating.
The gestation period is between 6-7 months.
Typically 6-21 young are born usually between July to early October. Neonates measure between 28cm-36cm (8.2in - 14.1in)
There is no parental care involved and thus the mortality rate amongst neonates is high.
Sexual maturity is reached at between 3-6 years.
Diet: As with most snakes the eastern diamondback rattlesnake is classified as a generalist and may eat a variety of different prey species. Prey includes rats, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and even large insects.
Young rattlesnakes prey predominantly on mice and rats.
Rattlesnakes release the prey after the strike and allow the prey to crawl away. Once the prey has succumbed to the venom the snake "tracks" the prey with its sense of smell. Once located it begins to consume the prey usually head first.
Subspecies: There are no known subspecies.
IUCN Red List: Not evaluated.
CITES: Not listed.
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