adder defined in 1939 yearadder - Adder (viper, Vipera berus);
adder - Venomous snake, the only one in Great Britain. The word is really nadder, a nadder being corrupted into an adder, as a napron into an apron. It is found in every count}' in England, Scotland, and Wales, in varying numbers, but, like other snakes, is absent from Ireland. It is the only snake known in Scotland, with the exception of one or two examples of the ring snake in Roxburgh. It is common in some parts of Wales, in S. England, and the N. of Scotland.
The average size of adult vipers in Great Britain is from 20 ins. to 25 ins. A smaller variety, known as the small red viper, averages from 10 ins. to 12 ins. in length. The adder is distinguished by its flattened head, upon which are two dark bands converging in the form of a V. Along the back there is a dark zig-zag line, and along the sides are two rows of dark patches, one on each side. Its food consists of mice, slow-worms or other lizards, young birds, newts, and water-voles.
The females are slightly larger than the males as a rule, less brilliantly coloured, and can be distinguished by their shorter tail, which is much more obviously an appendage than in the male. The upper jaw carries the poison fangs, about ⅓ in. in length, pointing backwards into the throat. Their mechanism is that of other members of the same family of serpents. The reproduction is viviparous, the young being born alive, usually ten to thirteen.
The bite of the adder is rarely fatal, except in the cases of young children and persons in ill health. The most important consideration is to prevent the poison from getting into the system. This may be done by instantly ligaturing the affected part, by the tight tying of a piece of string, or by compressing the veins forcibly. The wound should then be strongly sucked until it bleeds profusely. This is quite safe, provided that the lips or tongue are not cracked or sore. Strong ammonia and caustics should be applied to the seat of the injury, or it may be burnt with a red-hot coal. Slightly cutting the place with the point of a penknife will assist bleeding. The patient must be kept cheerful. In all cases medical assistance should be obtained at once.
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