Meet 12 Snakes of the Euphrates River

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: August 30, 2022
Image Credit Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com
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The Euphrates River is one of western Asia’s historical gems, stretching 1,740 miles. The river is of economic importance and is a prominent feature in many cultural and religious tales important to Asians. The Euphrates River often flowed as a boundary between kingdoms and was where they would meet and battle.

Some sources claim that the river’s drainage basin, an area of about 193,051 square miles (500,000 square kilometers), is distributed among 5 countries. Iraq has the largest share with about 47%, Turkey takes about 28%, and Syria 22%. Jordan and Saudi Arabia have small shares with 0.03% and 2.97% each. Consequently, the Euphrates River has many snakes native to these locations in and around it. Here are 12 snakes of the Euphrates River and its surrounding basin.

1. Levantine Viper

Levantine Viper
Levantine vipers can be identified by their brown, gray, beige, or olive coloring.

Vladislav T. Jirousek/Shutterstock.com

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The Levantine viper is a large and venomous viper found in many parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa. These snakes can grow as long as 59.1 inches (4.9 feet), with females typically longer than males. However, their sizes generally depend on where they are situated. They are often found in dry and rocky areas and on farms in mountainous areas.

The Levantine viper’s unique and dangerous venom is one added reason for reinforced calls to abandon the term “Big 4” in reference to India’s deadly species. Currently, there is no anti-venom for the bite of the Levantine viper. However, some people luckily survive its bites. These vipers can be identified by their brown, gray, beige, or olive coloring.

2. Desert Horned Viper

sahara horned viper
The desert horned viper emits anywhere from 19 to 100 mg of venom.

reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

Also known as the Saharan viper, the desert horned viper is found in scrub brushes, sandy desert areas, and rocky outcroppings. The desert horned viper is an extremely venomous snake, emitting anywhere from 19 to 100mg of venom and needing only about 40–50 mg to kill a human. They are usually about 12–24 inches (1-2 feet) in length.

3. Persian Sand Viper

The Persian sand viper is often referred to as the Persian horned viper and is found in flat rocky or sandy desert areas. It grows to an average length of 16 to 28 inches (1.3 to 2.3 feet) and is known for its slow movements. However, despite their seemingly slow sidewinding movements, they are quick to strike. Persian sand vipers also hiss aggressively when humans approach.

4. Radde’s Rock Viper

Radde’s rock vipers are found in many middle eastern countries but are native to Armenia. They are the only one of the four Armenian vipers not classified as Near Threatened or Critically Endangered. The species is moderately venomous, and fatalities from its bites are rare but possible. They are known to attain a maximum length of 39 inches and are found in farmlands and rocky areas. Radde’s rock vipers come in a variety of colors which include grayish-brown, grayish-black, or orange-spotted black.

5. Desert Black Snake

Desert Black Snake
The desert black snake is completely black with shiny scales.

Ltshears / public domain – License

Desert black snakes are highly venomous pit vipers found in sandy deserts, irrigated fields, and barren and rocky mountain hillsides. Also known as the desert cobra, this snake species falls under the elapid family and is fully black with shiny scales. Their venom has a lethal dose of 0.18mg/ pound (0.4 mg/kg) and is extremely similar to the king cobra‘s venom.

6. Arabian Gulf Sea Snake

The Arabian Gulf sea snake is an elapid snake found in the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf. It is often called the Persian Gulf sea snake and is known to attain 43 inches (3.6 feet) in length. Its venom contains neurotoxins that affect the nervous system, brains, nerves, heart, and breathing rates. The Arabian Gulf sea snake can be identified by its yellow, gray, or olive body with black or olive bands.

7. Beaked Sea Snake

Beaked sea snake (Enhydrina schistosa)
The beaked sea snake is responsible for more than 50% of all bites caused by sea snakes.

iStock.com/Ekaterina Borisova

Beaked sea snakes are long and highly-venomous reptiles with an average length of 4.2 feet (51.2 inches). They are often colored dark gray with white sides and bellies. Also called the hook-nosed sea snake, this species is responsible for more than 50% of all bites caused by sea snakes. Since its venom contains potent neurotoxins and myotoxins, it is responsible for about 90% of fatalities caused by sea snakes.

8. Blue-Banded Sea Snake

Blue banded sea snakes can grow up to 42 inches long.

Bramadi Arya / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

The blue-banded sea snake’s venom is said to be ten times more toxic than rattlesnakes’. These elapid snakes grow to a maximum length of 42 inches and have docile demeanors despite their toxic venom. They are found in the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Arabian Sea.

9. Hardwicke’s Sea Snake

Hardwicke’s Sea Snake
The bodies of Hardwicke’s sea snakes lack patterns.

R. Soedirman / public domain – License

Hardwicke’s sea snake was named in honor of English naturalist Thomas Hardwicke, who collected specimens across India and had them painted by Indian artists. Hardwicke’s sea snakes are short and stout snakes with venom capable of killing humans. They grow to average lengths of 3 feet and are often colored olive to dark gray. Their bodies lack patterns, but they may have yellow markings on their snouts.

10. Ornate Sea Snake

Sea Snake
The bite of an ornate sea snake can be deadly.

Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock.com

The ornate sea snake is a venomous elapid snake that has an average length of 3 feet (36 inches). These snakes have olive-green to gray bodies and short necks. They also have dark and thick bands around their necks as well as a short and flat tail shaped like a paddle. Their tails help them navigate the waters they live in. An ornate sea snake bite can be deadly. Its potent neurotoxic venom can lead to acute kidney failure, a coma, or death, among other complications.

11. Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake

A yellow-bellied sea snake curled up on the beach displaying its paddle-like tail
Yellow-bellied sea snakes are known for their potent neurotoxic venom.

Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

The yellow-bellied sea snake is a venomous elapid snake found in tropical waters. Yellow-bellied sea snakes are known for their potent neurotoxic venom. These snakes have yellow bellies and brown backs, which gives them their name. One fun fact about the species is that they can take up to 33% of their oxygen requirements through their skins while swimming at the water’s surface.

12. Yellow Sea Snake

The yellow sea snake is often confused with the aforementioned yellow-bellied sea snake but is a different and unique species. Not only has its venom been studied for its anti-tumor properties, but it is also one of the longest species of sea snakes. Yellow sea snakes are known to attain 9.8 feet (117.6 inches), although most specimens average 6.6 feet (79.2 inches). They are colored yellow or yellowish-green and have narrow black bands that start from their heads to their tails.

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Yellow-bellied Sea Snake
Sea snakes are usually 4 - 5 feet long. This is a yellow-bellied sea snake.
Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com
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