Vipera aspis is a venomous viper species found in southwestern Europe. Bites from this species can be more severe than from the European adder, V. berus; not only can they be very painful, but also about 4% of all untreated bites are fatal. The specific epithet, aspis, is a Greek word that means "viper." Five subspecies are currently recognized, including the nominate subspecies described here.
Description[edit source | edit]
The species grows to an average total length of 60–65 centimetres (24–26 in). Males reach a maximum total length of 85 cm (33 in), females rarely more than 75 cm (30 in). Males, however, are a little slimmer than females. The tail is very short: one-seventh to one-ninth of total body length in females, and one-sixth to one-eighth in males.
The head is broad, triangular and quite distinct from the neck. The tip of the snout is slightly but distinctly upturned. The rostral scale is generally higher than it is wide, touching 2 to 3 scales on the upper side of the snout. Dorsally, the snout is flat with distinct and slightly raised sharp margins. The nasal scale is single (hardly ever divided) and separated from the rostral by a single nasorostral scale. The crown is covered with numerous small and irregular scales of different sizes that are mostly smooth, but sometimes slightly keeled. Frontal and parietal scales are usually not present, but if so, they are small and irregularly shaped, with the frontal separated from the supraoculars by 2 scale rows. The supraocular scales are large and distinct, separated by 4–7 scale rows. There are 10–12 (rarely 8–18) small circumorbital scales below the supraocular. The eye is separated from the supralabials by 2 (rarely 3) scale rows. The vertical diameter of the eye is about the same as the distance between the eye and the mouth. There are 9–13 supralabials. The 4th–5th supralabials (rarely 4th–6th or 5th–6th) are separated from the eye by 2 (rarely 3) rows of small scales, but sometimes there is a single scale between the 4th supralabial and the eye. Generally, the temporal scales are smooth, but sometimes slightly keeled.
Midbody, there are 21–23 (rarely 19 or 25) rows of dorsal scales. These are strongly keeled, except for the outermost rows that vary and are sometimes smooth. There are 134–170 ventral scales. Subspecies V. a. aspis averages fewer than 150 ventrals, while V. a. atra averages more. The anal scale is single. Males have 32–49 subcaudals, females 30–43. The subcaudal scales are paired.
Common names[edit source | edit]
Geographic range[edit source | edit]
France, Andorra, northeastern Spain, extreme southwestern Germany, Switzerland, Monaco, the islands of Elba and Montecristo, Sicily, Italy, San Marino and northwestern Slovenia and can be often find in Croatian part of Istria. The original type locality was listed simply as "Gallia." However, Schwarz (1936) proposed that it be restricted to "Poitou [Frankreich]" (Poitou, France).
In August–October 2006, a number of specimens were discovered in a wooded area near the town of Portugaal in the Netherlands (south of Rotterdam). Although they were doing quite well, the species is not native in this country. It is likely that one or more escaped or were set loose in the area.
Conservation status[edit source | edit]
This species is classified as Least Concern (LC) according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (v3.1, 2001). So listed due to its wide distribution, tolerance of a broad range of habitats, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
Habitat[edit source | edit]
This species has a few clearly defined and relatively specific habitat requirements. It needs warm areas that are exposed to the sun, structured vegetation and comparatively dry soils. In Italy and France, it is often found in areas with low mountains or hills, notably in limestone regions, but sometimes occurs in lower plains. It has a preference for vegetated areas or environments with at least some cover. Here it can be found on sunny slopes, on scrublands, in glades, in mountain meadows, forest clearings, at the borders of woods, in rubbish dumps and in stone quarries. In Italy, it occurs in mesic chestnut/oak woodlands and often near streams. Although it is not strongly associated with high altitudes, it has been found at well over 2,100 m (6,900 ft) above sea level in the Pyrenees.
Venom[edit source | edit]
A bite from this species can be more severe than from V. berus and is very painful. According to Stemmler (1971), about 4% of all untreated bites are fatal. Lombardi and Bianco (1974) mention that this species is responsible for 90% of all cases of snakebite in Italy.
The toxicity of the venom varies. Stemmler (1971) states that the population in Passwang district, Switzerland have the strongest venom based on studies conducted on mice. Compared to venoms from other species, it is relatively toxic. Brown (1973) gives LD50 values of 1.0 mg/kg IV and 1.0–2.0 mg/kg SC. Tu et al. (1969) report 4.7 mg/kg IM. Venom yield is relatively low. Boquet (1964) reported a daily extraction figure of 9–10 mg.
Envenomation symptoms include rapidly spreading acute pain, followed by edema and discoloration. Severe haemorrhagic necrosis may occur within a few hours. Vision may be severely impaired, most likely due to degradation of blood and blood vessels in the eyes. The venom has both coagulant and anticoagulant effects. The venom may also affect glomerular structure, which can lead to death due to renal failure.
According to Cheymol et al. (1973), the venom does not affect neuromuscular contractions in in vitro preparations. Lack of this neurotoxic affect would indicate that fatal cases involving the cardiovascular system are the result of direct muscle injury or reduced oxygen exchange. On the other hand, Gonzalez (1991) reported that in two cases the victims developed neurotoxic symptoms, including difficulty in breathing and swallowing, as well as paralysis of the bitten limbs.
Subspecies[edit source | edit]
|Subspecies||Taxon author||Common name||Geographic range|
|V. a. aspis||(Linnaeus, 1758)||European asp||Found in most of France, except those areas bordering the English Channel. On the Atlantic coast, it is found in Île de Ré, Lorraine and Oléron, but not south of the Gironde estuary. Mostly absent east of the Moselle River and from much of the Mediterranean region, but does occur near Montpellier and in Alpes-Maritimes. A disjunct subpopulation exists in the Pyrenees, notably in Spain southwest of Bilbao. In Germany it occurs in the southern Black Forest along the Swiss border, but is rare in this area. Common in northwestern Italy and western Switzerland.|
|V. a. atra||Meisner, 1820||Black asp||Parts of Switzerland|
|V. a. francisciredi||Laurenti, 1768||Central Italian asp||Central Italy|
|V. a. hugyi||Schinz, 1833||Southern Italian asp||The south of Italy|
|V. a. zinnikeri||Kramer, 1958||Gascony asp||Gascony, Andorra and nearby Spain|
Gallery[edit source | edit]
A Vipera aspis eating a lizard, Toscana, Italy
See also[edit source | edit]
- List of viperine species and subspecies
- Viperinae by common name
- Viperinae by taxonomic synonyms
References[edit source | edit]
- Claudia Corti, Juan M. Pleguezuelos, Valentin Pérez-Mellado, Rafael Marquez, Marc Cheylan, Philippe Geniez, Ulrich Joger, Hans Konrad Nettmann, Benedikt Schmidt, Andreas Meyer, Roberto Sindaco, Antonio Romano & Iñigo Martínez-Solano (2009). "Vipera aspis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
- The Reptile Database. www.reptile-database.org.
- Boulenger, G.A. 1896. Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume III., Containing the...Viperidæ. Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, Printers.) London. xiv + 727 pp. + Plates I.- XXV. (Vipera aspis, pp. 481-485.)
- McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Volume 1. Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
- Mallow D, Ludwig D, Nilson G. 2003. True Vipers: Natural History and Toxinology of Old World Vipers. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida. 359 pp. ISBN 0-89464-877-2.
- Vipera aspis at Munich AntiVenom INdex
- Street D. 1979. The Reptiles of Northern and Central Europe. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd. 268 pp. ISBN 0-7134-1374-3.
- Gotch AF. 1986. Reptiles – Their Latin Names Explained. Poole, UK: Blandford Press. 176 pp. ISBN 0-7137-1704-1.
- "Vipera aspis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 13 August 2006.
- Mehrtens JM. 1987. Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
- U.S. Navy. 1991. Poisonous Snakes of the World. US Govt. New York: Dover Publications Inc. 203 pp. ISBN 0-486-26629-X.
- Kwet A. 2005. Reptilien und Amphibien Europas. Stuttgart: Franck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung. 252 pp. ISBN 3-440-10237-8.
- Uitheemse adder in Portugaal at Reptielenzoo "Serpo". Accessed 17 October 2006.
- Giftige slangen gesignaleerd in valckesteynse bos at Staatsbosbeheer. Accessed 17 October 2006.
- 2001 Categories & Criteria (version 3.1) at the IUCN Red List. Accessed 2 September 2007.
- Monney JC, Meyer A. 2005. Rote Liste der gefährdeten Reptilien der Schweiz. Hrsg. Bundesamt für Umwelt, Wald und Landschaft BUWAL, Bern und Koordinationsstelle für Amphibien- und Reptilienschutz der Schweiz, Bern. BUWAL-Reihe. 50 pp.
- Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, Appendix III at Council of Europe. Accessed 9 October 2006.
- Steward JW. 1971. The Snakes of Europe. Cranbury, New Jersey: Associated University Press (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press). 238 pp. LCCCN 77-163307. ISBN 0-8386-1023-4.
- Stemmler O. 1971. Die Reptilien der Schweiz mit besonderer Berucksichtigung der Basler Region. Veroff Nat Mus Basel, Number 5.
- Brown JH. 1973. Toxicology and Pharmacology of Venoms from Poisonous Snakes. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas. 184 pp. LCCCN 73–229. ISBN 0-398-02808-7.
- Tu, Anthony T., Manabu Homma & Bor-Shyue Hong (1969). "Hemorrhagic, myonecrotic, thrombotic and proteolytic activities of viper venoms". Toxicon 6 (3): 175–178. doi:10.1016/0041-0101(69)90117-2. PMID 5776833.
- Boquet P (1964). "Venins de serpents (1ere partie) physio-pathologie de l'envenimation et proprietes biologiques des venins". Toxicon (in French) 2 (1): 5–41. doi:10.1016/0041-0101(64)90028-5.
- Cheymol J, Boquet P, Detrait J, Roch-Arveller M (1973). "Comparaison des principales propriétés pharmacologiques de différents venins d'Echis carinatus (Vipéridés)" [Comparison of the principal pharmacologic properties of different venoms of Echis carinatus (Viperidae)]. Archives Internationales de Pharmacodynamie et de Therapie 205 (2): 293–304.
- Gonzalez D (1991). "Snakebite problems in Europe". In Tu AT. Handbook of Natural Toxins (5th ed.). New York: Marcel Dekker. pp. 687–751.
Further reading[edit source | edit]
- Arnold EN, Burton JA. 1978. A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe. Collins. London. 272 pp. ISBN 0 00 219318 3. (Vipera aspis, pp. 218-219 + Plates 39-40 + Map 123.)
- Guillemin, Isabelle, Christiane Bouchier, Thomas Garrigues, Anne Wisner & Valérie Choumet (2003). "Sequences and structural organization of phospholipase A2 genes from Vipera aspis aspis, V. aspis zinnikeri and Vipera berus berus venom" (PDF). European Journal of Biochemistry 270 (13): 2697–2706. doi:10.1046/j.1432-1033.2003.03629.x. PMID 12823540.