Common adder

Vipera berus

SUBFAMILY

Viperinae

TAXONOMY

Vipera berus Linnaeus, 1758, Uppsala, Sweden (terra typica restricta). Three subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Vipér peliad; German: Kreuzotter.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Males are 21.7-25.6 in (55-65 cm), and females are 23.6-27.6 in (60-70 cm) in length. This is a medium-sized viper with sexual dimorphism. Males have a gray ground color with a black dorsal zigzag band; females are brown or reddish brown, with a dark brown zigzag band along the back. Locally, up to 50% of the snakes in the population are totally melanistic.

DISTRIBUTION

The species is distributed in Europe from the Russian Kola Peninsula in the north to northern Italy and Greece in the south. Eastward it is distributed through Asia to the island of Sakhalin north of Japan and to North Korea.

HABITAT

The species prefers mesic habitats with meadows and moorland. It can be found at the edges of forests.

BEHAVIOR

Males defend a small territory around reproductive females during a few spring weeks (May) and engage in pronounced combat behavior during the mating period.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Small rodents and especially voles (Microtus) are the main food item for adults. Occasionally birds, frogs, and lizards are eaten. Juvenile adders take frogs and lizards as prey.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Females usually reproduce every second year, but occasionally less often. Males reproduce every year. The mating period is in May, and the young are born (ovoviviparity) in August or September. The clutch size is, on average, 10 young, but it can vary between two and 18 young.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Although not listed by the IUCN, this species has a fragmented distribution in central Europe and is locally endangered.

It is more abundant in the northern parts of its distribution (Scandinavia and Russia). It is protected in most European countries.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The common adder causes numerous bites throughout its range every year, but very few are fatal. ♦

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