(Science: herpetology) a genus of snakes of the family viperidae, one of the pit vipers, so-called from the pit hollowing out the maxillary bone, opening between the eye and the nostril.
They are distinctively american serpents. most of the 25 recognised species are found in the southwestern united states and northern mexico. Several species are found as far north as canada and east of the mississippi, including southern appalachia. They are named for the jointed rattle (greek krotalon) at the tip of their tail.