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Atheris spp., African bush vipers

Clinical entries


  • 1. Atheris acuminata
  • 2. Atheris anisolepis
  • 3. Atheris barbouri
  • 4. Atheris broadley
  • 5. Atheris ceratophora
  • 6. Atheris chloroechis
  • 7. Atheris desaixi
  • 8. Atheris hetfieldi
  • 9. Atheris hindii (= Montatheris hindii)
  • 10. Atheris hirsuta
  • 11. Atheris hispida
  • 12. Atheris katangensis
  • 13. Atheris mabuensis
  • 14. Atheris matildae
  • 15. Atheris mongoensis
  • 16. Atheris nitschei
  • 17. Atheris rungweensis
  • 18. Atheris squamigera
  • 19. Atheris subocularis
  • 20. Atheris superciliaris (= Proatheris superciliaris)


A. barbouri had been given the name Adenorhinos barbouri and classified as its own, new genus, but was returned to the genus Atheris (Lenk et al. 2001).

A. acuminata was previously considered conspecific with A. hispidus

A. broadley was previously considered conspecific with A. squamigera.

A. rungweensis was previously considered conspecific with A. nitschei.

A. subocularis was previously considered conspecific with A. squamigera.

A. hindii is now classified as belonging to its own genus: Montatheris hindii (Broadley 1996).

A. superciliaris is now classified as belonging to its own genus: Proatheris superciliaris (Broadley 1996).


Serpentes; Viperidae; Viperinae

Common names

African bush vipers, Buschvipern

  • 1. Acuminate bush viper
  • 2. Mayombe bush viper
  • 3. Uzungwe Mountain bush viper
  • 4. Broadley's bush viper
  • 5. Usambara Mountain bush viper
  • 6. Western bush viper
  • 7. Mount Kenya bush viper
  • 8. Hetfield’s Bush Viper
  • 9. Kenya Montane viper
  • 11. Rough-scaled bush viper, Spiny bush viper, Hairy bush viper
  • 12. Shaba bush viper
  • 14. Matildas horned viper
  • 15. Mongo Hairy Bush Viper, Vipère arboricole mongo, Yété
  • 16. Great Lakes bush viper
  • 17. Rungwe tree viper
  • 18. Green bush viper, Yété
  • 19. SW Cameroon bush viper
  • 20. Lowland swamp viper


West, central and east Africa. See link "Distribution" at the top of the page for detailed information.


  Map 42 Atheris spp.



With the exception of A. hindii and A. superciliaris (= Montatheris hindii and Proatheris superciliaris), bush vipers are chiefly arboreal. They live in bushes, low trees or banana trees, on river banks or in reeds. This way of life represents an exception among the Viperinae and resembles that of arboreal crotalids of South America and Southeast Asia (Trimeresurus spp., Bothriechis spp., Bothriopsis spp.).

Sturdy body with prehensile tail; the largest specimens are barely more than 70 cm. Broad head distinct from the neck. Strongly carinate, overlapping scales that protrude from the body, especially on the head (extreme in A. hispida, slight in A. nitschei). Colouring in shades of yellow, green or brown, sometimes with irregular blotches. A. ceratophora and A. matildae with marked supraciliary scales (scales over the eye).

Montatheris hindii and Proatheris superciliaris, which were recently given the status of their own genus, are significantly different from the type of snake described above. These are ground-dwelling species that resemble European vipers or smaller Bitis species in appearance. Head more elongated than in the other Atheris species; carinate scales, but they do not protrude. The basic colouring is brownish with darker, light-bordered markings, consisting of larger blotches in Proatheris superciliaris and two alternating rows of smaller triangles in Montatheris hindii. The latter lives in scrubby grasslands at altitudes of 1,300–3,800 m.


There are only rare reports of envenoming, but a few cases of Atheris (=Proatheris) superciliaris bites with severe hemostatic venom effects have been cited by Warrel (2008).

Literature (biological)

Broadley 1983, 1996, Ceriaco et al. 2020, Collet & Trape 2020, Doucet 1963, Kramer 1961, Lenk et al. 2001, Mallow et al. 2003, Marx and Rabb 1965, Menegon et al. 2011, Pitman 1974, Rasmussen and Howell 1982, Villiers 1975, Welch 1982, Ernst and Rödel 2002, Branch and Bayliss 2009, Warrell 2008

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