Namaqua dwarf adder (Bitis schneideri)

Namaqua dwarf adder, side view, tongue extended
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Namaqua dwarf adder fact file

Namaqua dwarf adder description

GenusBitis (1)

The Namaqua dwarf adder is the smallest venomous snake in the world (3), reaching a maximum length of just 28 centimetres (2). A true viper, this unusual snake is a member of the Viperidae family, which contains true vipers (Viperinae) and pit vipers (Crotalinae) (2). All members of the family Viperidae have broad triangular shaped heads and heavy bodies that feature many scales (2). They have long hinged, hollow fangs that allow them to inject venom into their victims; when not in use, these fangs fold back and rest against the roof of the mouth (2).

Length: up to 28 cm (2)

Namaqua dwarf adder biology

Very little is known of this rare species. Members of the Viperidae family tend to be active at night. They hunt for small mammals, birds and other small vertebrates. Species belonging to the genus Bitis are viviparous (2).


Namaqua dwarf adder range

Found in South Africa from Hondeklip Bay north to south western Namibia, where it occurs south of the Namib Desert (4).


Namaqua dwarf adder habitat

Found in semi-stable dunes, mainly in coastal areas (3) (4).


Namaqua dwarf adder status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) by the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Namaqua dwarf adder threats

The predominant threat to this species’ survival in the wild has been the mining activities on the coast of South Africa and Namibia (4). It has also been collected heavily for the pet trade, with 200 known to have been taken recently from the Port Nolloth area in Namaqualand, in the northwest of South Africa (4).


Namaqua dwarf adder conservation

All reptiles are protected in South Africa, with a strict permit system in force, even for biological field research. However, illegal collecting is difficult to control (4).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more information on Viperids see:



Authenticated (15/12/2005) by Dr. Tony Phelps, Squamate Ecologist and founder of the Cape Reptile Institute.



A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Animals with a backbone.
Giving birth to live young that have already reached an advanced stage of development.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2008)
  2. TIGR Reptile Database- Family Viperidae (April, 2008)
  3. Snakes alive (March, 2004)
  4. Phelps, T. (2005) Pers. comm.

Image credit

Namaqua dwarf adder, side view, tongue extended  
Namaqua dwarf adder, side view, tongue extended

© Shem Compion /

Shem Compion /
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