What´s TRUE on that?!


Dipsa is a tiny snake from Medieval bestiaries. Although we could find more notes about this tiny, mucus like and extremely venomous snake in medieval sources, we couldn´t find any in modern literature. So what we know about this dangerous snake from past?

Dipsas were known to live in desserts, near sources of water, and were spread in North Africa. Many snakes live in desserts and also there is a sea snake, so on this information we wouldn´t find nothing unsual. We should predict snakes in warmer climates, as snakes needs sun and warm to move, as in lower temperatures they fall into the state of immobility.

Interesting point was, that venom of this snake was so strong, that victim would first die, before will felt that was bitten. We can think, that their bite was similarly to mosquitoes, which inject chemicals, which acts as an anesthetic, and thus bite is not usually felt by victim. But we can also mention blue-ringed octopus, which bite is painless, so victim wouldn´t know it untill it will be too late. 

Next, Dipsa, was so small that you wouldn´t see it before you would step on it. As victim usually step on this medieval snake, we could think that bite was into the feets. Michael Smith created an experiment during which exposed sting of bee 25 different parts of the body. Result was, that at least painful places are head, forearm and toes on feet. Also people in this time of our history didn´t have the best shoes, so the feet were obviously adapted and hardened.

Also such a small size of a reptile is today not nothing special. In 2012 was discovered Brookesia micra, specie of chameleon, which adult can grow to 3 cm. Smallest snake till now was found in Barbados, in 2008, with lenght about 10 cm and also adult of mentioned blue-ringed octopus will grow only to the size of golf ball. We still do not know all the species of each kind of animal, so still can be discovered even smaller animals and there are also opinions, that every day extinct hundreads of species. So, Dipsa could be already extinct.

Next we can write, that probably depended also on type of Dipsa, because venom should induce also unnatural thirst. Dipsa mean „thirsty“ or „thirst-causer“ and anyone bitten by it dies of thirst. Also we can think about male and female because of different colour description of this snake.  But back to unnatural thirst, which should caused this medieval snake. The thirst was so horrible, that no amout of water could help victim´s thirst. Sometimes victims drank too much that their stomachs exploded. Venom of many snake species cause thirst, for example venom of specifics rattlesnakes or Brazilian lancehead snake is known to cause of dry throat and thirst. Alco Ricin will cause, except for other symptoms, burning in the mouth. So victims probably wanted to extinguish the burn and for other people it was like unnatural thirst. 

In the world are around three thousand of snake species and there are still those which weren´t find or some which even wouldn´t be find because they are already extinct. Thus we can believe that Dipsa could once really exist, and only question is what more can be find in Medieval bestiaries and What´s true on that?!

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