Unveiling the puff adder’s mysterious disappearing act

When we think of magicians, people with white-tipped wands often spring to mind. But in the animal realm, beings with astonishing abilities exist. Forget pulling a rabbit from a hat – puff adders can disappear at will. With skin tiled…

Unveiling the puff adder’s mysterious disappearing act

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When we think of magicians, people with white-tipped wands often spring to mind. But in the animal realm, beings with astonishing abilities exist. Forget pulling a rabbit from a hat – puff adders can disappear at will.

With skin tiled in gold and brown chevrons, they’re able to blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. Puff adders are found across sub-Saharan Africa, where rocky and arid landscapes provide the perfect canvas to camouflage against.

These snakes can remain concealed in hiding spots for weeks at a time. Unlike mammals, puff adders gather their strength from the sun’s rays and regulate their own temperatures. Snakes don’t have to consume a lot of food, instead soaking up most of their energy like solar panels. Because of this, puff adders don’t rush around on the hunt to stay alive. They conserve stamina by lying still and waiting for hapless prey to wander by.

Hikers may often step over or near puff adders without knowing it, as the serpents lie coiled for an ambush in their classic S-shape. But they will only stir or hiss when threatened. If you hear that sound, don’t approach the snake. Due to their unwillingness to move away, puff adders are responsible for the most snake bite fatalities in Africa. They say that ignorance is bliss. But in this case, it’s better to be aware when you’re strolling along – a puff adder may be waiting for a snack.

Footage by Willem Van Zyl was used in the creation of this film.

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