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.