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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Cerastes \Ce*ras"tes\, n. [L., a horned serpent, fr. Gr. kera`sths horned, fr. ke`ras horn.] (Zo["o]l.) A genus of poisonous African serpents, with a horny scale over each eye; the horned viper.


n. highly venomous viper of northern Africa and southwestern Asia having a horny spine above each eye [syn: horned viper, sand viper, horned asp, Cerastes cornutus]


The cerastes ( Greek: κεράστης, English: cerastēs, English translation: "having horns") is a creature of Greek legend, a serpent that is incredibly flexible—so much so that it is said to have no spine. Cerastae can have either two large ram-like horns or four pairs of smaller horns. The cerastes hides its head in the sand with only the horns protruding out of the surface; this is meant to deceive other animals into thinking it is food. When the animal approaches the cerastes, the cerastes promptly kills it.

The legend is most likely derived from the habits of the horned viper, whose genus, Cerastes, is named after the mythological creature. They are desert-dwelling animals, which can have horn-like protrusions over their eyes, and are ambush predators, though not nearly large enough to take prey items much larger than a mouse or small lizard.

Leonardo da Vinci wrote the following on Cerastes: This has four movable little horns; so, when it wants to feed, it hides under leaves all of its body except these little horns which, as they move, seem to the birds to be some small worms at play. Then they immediately swoop down to pick them and the Cerastes suddenly twines round them and encircles and devours them

Cerastes (genus)

Cerastes is a genus of small, venomous vipers found in the deserts and semi-deserts of northern North Africa eastward through Arabia and Iran. Three species are currently recognized by "ITIS" (Integrated Taxonomic Information System), and an additional recently described species is recognized by the Reptile Database. Common names for members the genus include horned vipers, North African desert vipers, and cerastes vipers.

Usage examples of "cerastes".

If this palace had doors of blue stone mixed with the horns of the cerastes, which prevented anyone entering from bringing poison inside, and windows of a stone that allowed the passing of light.

Then he stopped relying on his memory and on the authority of Thomas, and began seeing doors of sardonyx mixed with horns of the cerastes, which prevent passersby from introducing poison into the building, and windows of crystal, tables of gold on columns of ivory, lights nourished with balsam, and the king's bed of sapphire, to preserve chastity, becausethe Poet concludedthis John may be a king all right, but he is also a priest and so, as for women, nothing doing.