Mohave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) Identification Revisited
AffiliationBanner University Medical Center, University of Arizona
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CitationCardwell, M. D., Massey, D. J., Smelski, G., & Wüster, W. (2022). Mohave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) Identification Revisited. Wilderness and Environmental Medicine.
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AbstractCrotalus scutulatus (Mohave rattlesnake) is a clinically significant pit viper broadly distributed across much of the arid southwestern United States and mainland Mexico. Identification of C scutulatus is a concern among emergency medical service and emergency department personnel owing to its reputation for severe envenomations and difficulty in visually differentiating between C scutulatus and other species, primarily Crotalus atrox (western diamond-backed rattlesnake). We contrast distinctive characteristics of C scutulatus, C atrox, and 3 other sympatric species: Crotalus molossus, Crotalus ornatus, and Crotalus viridis (western and eastern black-tailed rattlesnakes and prairie rattlesnake, respectively). Greenish coloration eliminates C atrox but does not confirm C scutulatus. Obvious coarse and fine speckling of the dorsal pattern and a pale postocular stripe intersecting the mouth characterize C atrox. Dorsal speckling is insignificant or absent in the other species, whereas the pale postocular stripe passes above the mouth in C scutulatus and C viridis and is absent in C molossus and C ornatus. Tails boldly ringed with alternating black and white or contrasting shades of gray are shared by C atrox and C scutulatus, respectively, but a lack of boldly ringed tails characterizes the other species. The proximal rattle segment is yellow and black, or entirely yellow, in C scutulatus but black in the others. The most reliable visual identifications are based on evaluations of multiple traits, all of which are variable to some extent. Traits such as tail ring width and the size and number of crown scales have frequently been overemphasized in the past.
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Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as © 2022 The Authors. Published by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc., under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).