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a genus of venomous snakes of the family Viperidae. Scales on the sides of the body, which form a toothed rib, rub against each other, making a sound similar to water hissing on a very hot stove. The tail is short. The genus embraces two species: E. carinatus and E. colorata.
E. carinatus is found in Africa north of the equator, in South and Southwest Asia as far east as the Ganges and as far south as Sri Lanka, and in Middle Asia. The coloration is grayish or brownish, with dark-edged zigzag bands. There is a light cross-shaped pattern on the head. The body measures 80 cm in length. The snake lives in sandy and clay deserts. It is active at dusk and night. Adults eat small vertebrates, and the young feed primarily on insects, arachnids, and myriopods. An ovoviviparus snake, it bears three to 18 offspring, which measure as much as 16 cm long at birth. The snake is extremely poisonous. Cases of human deaths resulting from the bite of echis snakes have been recorded, but usually the victims become well in a week or two.
E. colorata is found on the Arabian Peninsula, in Egypt, and in Palestine.