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Newly Discovered Venomous Snake Inflates Itself to Appear Scarier

Scientists have described a new species of mountain pit viper, a venomous snake called Ovophis jenkinsi that inflates itself to appear scarier. Researchers found the species in Yingjiang County, Yunnan Province, China. After collecting specimens and comparing them to other known pit vipers, the researchers say the viper is a new species and published their findings in ZooKeys.

As far as scientists know, O. jenkinsi only lives in the tropical montane rainforest of China’s Yunnan Province. They found the snake at 1,300 meters (over 4,000 feet). The species is nocturnal and seems to prefer cooler, humid weather. The researchers didn’t observe the animal eating in the wild, but based on their observations of the animal in captivity, they presume it eats small mammals.

Interestingly, they did observe what the snake does when it’s threatened in the wild. “When threatened, these snakes inflate their bodies to make themselves appear larger and strike quickly,” the researchers say.

In an interview with EurekAlert!, researchers said: “[O. jenkinsi] is usually slow-moving but shows great aggression when disturbed.”

The research paper doesn’t go into the specifics about how exactly the snake inflates itself or how big it gets (is anyone else picturing a snake balloon?), this tactic makes the snake appear larger and more fearsome than it actually is, which intimidates any would-be predators.

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