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pit viper

any of numerous venomous snakes of the family Crotalidae, of the New World, Asia, and the Malay Archipelago, as the rattlesnake, water moccasin, and copperhead, having a heat-sensitive pit on each side of the head between the eye and nostril.
Origin of pit viper
First recorded in 1880-85 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for pit viper

pit viper

any venomous snake of the New World family Crotalidae, having a heat-sensitive organ in a pit on each side of the head: includes the rattlesnakes
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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pit viper in Science
pit viper  
Any of various very venomous snakes of the family Crotalidae. Pit vipers are characterized by a triangular head with a small sensory pit below each eye. The pits detect infrared radiation and help the snake locate prey. Some scientists classify the pit vipers as a subfamily Crotalinae within the Viperidae, the family of vipers, rather than as a separate family. Copperheads, rattlesnakes, and fer-de-lances are pit vipers.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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