Fang One and Fang Two

Serpents, Vipers, Asps, Snakes, Adders and Pythons

Fang 1 or Fang 2? How can you tell them apart? Or is it all just in the name?

Snakes lack legs and have a long, thin body. There are approximately 3,600 species of snake so it’s of little surprise we’ve come up with some groupings to make sense of it all. Before scientists divided animals into groups by their DNA, they were grouped according to what they looked like. If an animal had no legs it was probably a snake or an unfortunate pirate. If an animal had wings it was a bird or Ichorous. We have broad groupings like: bird, lizard and snake but we have more specific groupings as well. For example, birds can be divided into: parrots, honeyeaters and songbirds. The same goes for snakes. They are divided into: vipers, adders, pythons and the rest (usually just called snakes).




Pythons are non-venomous and use constriction to kill their prey. Depending on the species, they are capable of growing to monstrous sizes. Their teeth are jagged and face backwards. This means that the prey can slide further down their throat but if they try to retreat, they will get impaled.


Python skull with its backward facing teeth


Vipers belong to the family, Viperidae. They can be found in most areas of the world except for: Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Madagascar and Antarctica. They are characterised by large, hollow, front fangs that work similarly to a hypodermic syringe. They can even control how much venom they inject! The fangs are very large and without them, the snake would die from starvation. This means that they need to take very good care of their fangs. They do this by folding their fangs away when they’re not in use.

Vibrant Viper
Rattle Snake Skull, Poison Exhibit
Viper skull displaying the impressive fangs


The term ‘Asp’ is usually reserved for venomous snakes in the Nile region. In Greek mythology, Perseus slew Medusa and then flew her head back to Mount Olympus with the aid of winged boots. As he flew over Egypt it is said that some of Medusa’s blood spilled and was transformed into the asps. The asp was the symbol of the royals. The venom of the asp was reserved for those sentenced to death that were deemed worthy of a dignified execution.

Cobras are among the asps

Snakes and Serpents

Snakes are serpents and serpents are snakes. Just a different name for the same thing.



Adders are not a set group of snakes. Many different types of snake are referred to as, ‘adders’. For example…

In Australia we have deathadders which are counted among the most dangerous snakes in the world

Death adder

Common European adder (Vipera berus) is the only venomous snake in Great Britain. They are also found across Europe.

Common European Adder (Vipera berus)

The venomous puff adders are found throughout the African continent.


Hog-nosed snake are also sometimes referred to as puff adders but they are contained to North America and are considered harmless to humans

Hog-nosed snake or the North American puff adder

These snakes have virtually nothing in common other than they are snakes. They are not necessarily venomous as in the case of the hog-nosed snake. They come from a range of families including: Viperidae (vipers), Columbridae (front-fanged snakes) and Elapidae (rear-fanged snakes). They often have a similar appearance to the vipers but again not necessarily. It would therefore be concluded that adder is just another general term interchangeable with ‘snake’.



'Now walk in a straight line... nah I'm just messing with you.'


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