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Cameron Highlands Pit Viper

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5

Fig 6


Species :  Popeia nebularis
Maximum Size : 100 cm

First described in 2004, Cameron Highlands Pit Viper is named after the montane 'hill resort' from which it was first described, and which lies in the northern part of Pahang State, Peninsular Malaysia at around 1500 metres elevation.

The species has subsequently been found at Fraser's Hill, 100 km to the south thus, according to current knowledge, it appears to be restricted to elevations of between 1000 to 1500 metres in the central part of the Titiwangsa Range (which forms the mountainous spine of Peninsular Malaysia).

Little is known of the ecology of this species. Its diet is presumed to comprise rodents and birds. One of the specimens illustrated here was found in strike pose in a shallow stream gully which, in addition to various species of frog, is known to be frequented by a species of water shrew (most likely the Malayan Water Shrew Chimarrogale hantu): quite what this snake is targetting is unclear.

Other specimens have been found clinging to roadside vegetation well away from water courses.

The body colour of this snake is an intense green above, with a slight bluish tinge : this tinge is more apparent in the interstitial skin and at the margin of the dorsal body scales. On the lower flanks the body scales are yellowish.

The species lacks the adornments of other green-coloured pit-vipers : it has no coloured streak behind the eye, and generally no lateral stripes along the flanks.

The tail is bicoloured: the upperside is typically rusty brown (although in the example shown in Figure 5 it is rather greyish), and the underside of the tail is typically green. The demarcation between the upper and lower parts of the tail is sharp: this is a useful identifying feature (and is in contrast to the tail of Siamese Peninsula Pit Viper Popeia fucata where demarcation is less sharp).

Most specimens appear glossy under direct camera flash (although this may be less apparent if a flash diffuser is used). This can also help to separate the species from plain forms of Popeia fucata.

Fig 1 : Specimen in strike pose on a fallen branch, 20 cm above a shallow, sandy stream at night. Note the colour of the tail which is greyish above and green below, with the boundary between the two being sharp. This is the first confirmed record of the species at Fraser's Hill (based on photos) from 2011.

Fig 2 : Close-up of the triangular head - in this specimen the iris is yellowish-orange.

Fig 3 : Stream gully in which the Popeia nebularis in Figs 1, 2, 4 and 5 was found.

Fig 4 : Close-up of keeled body scales showing bluish tinge at the edge of each scale.

Fig 5 : Close-up of the greyish tail.

Fig 6 : Another example, but with more typical rusty brown colour on the dorsal surface of the tail, which is sharply demarcated with the green ventral surface.

All photos from Fraser's Hill, Peninsular Malaysia at around 1000 metres elevation.

References : H12