Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The meadow viper feeds upon a variety of animal species, most commonly orthopterans (such as grasshoppers and crickets), followed by rodents, lizards, birds, spiders and beetles. However, significant seasonal variations in the diet exist, with invertebrates predominating only between July and September, and vertebrates playing a more important role at other times of the year (9). One poisonous bite is usually enough to kill the prey (2). Mating occurs from April to May and females give birth to four to eight (sometimes up to 12 or 15) live young from August to September (2). Clutch size appears to be positively correlated with female body size (10).
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Description

The meadow viper is a small, venomous snake (5), with a beautiful and intricate zigzag pattern marking the length of its back (6). The basic body colour is a light grey to brown along the sides, usually with a paler band down the centre of the back, within which a dark zigzag with black edging appears (2). Occasionally, strongly yellow-coloured scales can occur around these markings. A dark 'V' shaped mark appears on the top of the head and there is a dark stripe behind the eye (2). The underside of the body ranges from black to dark grey or even reddish, often with grey-white speckles (2). Females grow larger than males and as with most vipers, this species have hinged, hollow fangs, which inject poison into prey or as a defence mechanism.
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Distribution

Range Description

This species has a very fragmented range in southeastern France, the central Appenines of Italy, western and central Hungary, northern and southern Croatia, central and southern Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, southern Serbia, northern Albania, northwestern Macedonia, western Greece and central and eastern Romania. It is considered extinct in Austria and Bulgaria, and is close to extinction in Hungary and Moldova. It occurs up to about 2,700m asl.
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Range Description

This species is known only from one locality, Kohu Dag, 20km east of Elmali, in southwestern Anatolia, Turkey (Nilsen and Andrén, 2001). It has been recorded around 1,500-1,900 asl. It might occur more widely but surveys for this species in the region have failed to find it, suggesting that it is probably a range-restricted species.
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Continent: Near-East Asia Europe
Distribution: SE France, E Austria, Italy,  W Yugoslavia: Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegowina, Monte Negro, Macedonia, Serbia, N Albania,  Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, W Turkey (NE Turkey ?),  NW Iran, Armenia, Russia, Moldova, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, eastward through Kazakhstan to Mt. Altai, south to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, China (W Xinjiang)  anatolica: S Turkey;
Type locality: Ciglikara Ormani, 50 km SSW of Elmali, Turkey.  graeca: Albania, Greece  ebneri: Iran  macrops: Balkan  moldavica: Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova  parursinii: mountain steppes in N Xinjiang, NW China.  rakosiensis: E Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, S Romania, N Bulgaria  tienshanica: Tien Shan mountains in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and NW China.  ursinii: C Italy;
Type locality: “... monti dell’Abruzzo prossimi alla provincia d’Ascoli...” (mountains of Abruzzi, near Ascoli province, Italy).  wettsteini: SE France  
Type locality: Italy
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Range

The taxonomic status, and therefore distribution, of the meadow viper has been widely debated (2). Although formerly thought to spread from Central Europe to Central Asia, latest scientific thought is that the Asian subspecies should be elevated to separate species status (7). Under these classifications, the meadow viper (Vipera ursinii) is found only in Italy and France (V. u. ursinii), Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and northern Albania (V. u. macrops), central Greece (V. u. graeca), Hungary (V. u. rakosiensis) (possibly extinct in Romania and Austria), Romania and possibly Bulgaria (V. u. moldavica) (7).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It is primarily associated with open meadows and hillsides. Upland subspecies are generally found on well drained rocky hillsides, steppe and meadows, while the lowland forms are found in either steppe, or dry or damp meadows. The lowland subspecies are sometimes found in marshy areas. It gives birth to live young; the female has between two and 22 young.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It is known from montane, open, Mediterranean forest. It prefers open areas so can benefit from some logging. It is a ovoviviparous species (Kumlutaş, pers. comm. 2008).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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The meadow viper inhabits meadows, farmlands, mountain pastures, rocky hillsides, and open, grassy fields, up to 8,000 feet above sea level (6) (8).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
B2ab(iii)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2009

Assessor/s
Ulrich Joger, Jelka Crnobrnja Isailovic, Milan Vogrin, Claudia Corti, Bogoljub Sterijovski, Alexander Westerström, László Krecsák, Valentin Pérez Mellado, Paulo Sá-Sousa, Marc Cheylan, Juan M. Pleguezuelos, Roberto Sindaco

Reviewer/s
Cox, N. and Temple, H.J. (Global Reptile Assessment)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Vulnerable because its Area of Occupancy is believed to be less than 2,000 km2, its distribution is severely fragmented, and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat. The northern and eastern lowland subspecies of V. ursinii are especially threatened and are considered to be nearly extinct.
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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
B1ab(v)+2ab(v)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2009

Assessor/s
Varol Tok, Ishmail Ugurtas, Murat Sevinç, Wolfgang Böhme, Pierre-André Crochet, Ulrich Joger, Yakup Kaska, Yusuf Kumlutaş, Uğur Kaya, Aziz Avci, Nazan Üzüm, Can Yeniyurt, Ferdi Akarsu

Reviewer/s
Neil Cox and Helen Temple

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Critically Endangered, because its Extent of Occurrence is less than 100km2, its Area of Occupancy is presumed to be less than 10km2, it is known from only a single location, and there is probably a continuing decline in the number of mature individuals due to collection and persecution of the species.
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Status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (4). Subspecies: Vipera ursinii rakosiensis (Hungarian meadow viper) is classified as Endangered (EN) and V. u. moldavica is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Population

Population
It is generally uncommon or rare, and patchily distributed. It is now presumed to be extinct in Austria, Bulgaria and possibly also in Moldova.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Population

Population
It is an extremely rare species (Avci and Kumlutaş, pers. comm. 2008).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The conversion of traditionally farmed meadows to intensively cultivated and grazed land has caused significant declines in populations of this species in Central and southern Europe, most especially among lowland subspecies. Also, afforestation of alpine grasslands (because of abandonment of traditional agricultural practices) is a threat to the species in some areas. Construction of ski-runs and roads are significant threats to montane populations. Montane populations of this species may also be affected by increasing climate change, in particular the impact of temperature change on populations of important prey species (e.g.. Orthoptera) and breeding biology. In the Balkans, it relies on prey species (Orthoptera) which is highly sensitive to pollution, hence it may be used as a habitat quality indicator. In France, some well known localities in Italy, and other parts of the range it is collected for the pet trade, and like many species of snake it is persecuted.
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Major Threats
It is a very restricted range species. There is some collection of the species for the pet-trade and possibly for scientific collections. Farmers that seasonally use the area persecute the snake as they are not sure if it is dangerous. The species' habitat is not currently threatened.
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The precise threats facing the meadow viper across its range are unknown, but habitat destruction is likely to have played an important role in the decline of the species (5). Recent studies have been made of the Hungarian meadow viper (V. u. rakosiensis) subspecies, which is estimated to have only a very small remaining population and is in imminent danger of extinction (10). The decline of the Hungarian meadow viper has been largely attributed to the growth in agricultural land, which has caused a great reduction and fragmentation in the habitat of the meadow viper. Even small barriers of farmland are thought to reduce movement and outbreeding with other populations. Small, isolated populations are not only more vulnerable to extinction through events such as disease epidemics, or storms, but they are also more likely to suffer from loss of genetic diversity through inbreeding, massively increasing the risk of extinction. Loss of genetic variation can result in a high percentage of stillbirths or deformities, which have been recorded for this subspecies, and low genetic diversity is currently considered the prime threat to the Hungarian meadow viper (5). The Hungarian meadow viper is also thought to have suffered from over-collection from the wild, both for the pet trade and scientific purposes (5).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species is listed on Annex II of the Bern Convention, and on Annex IV of the European Union Habitat and Species Directive. Populations of this species from Europe are listed on Appendix I of CITES. Its range includes several protected areas. In-country conservation measures, such as maintaining suitable areas of meadow habitat, are underway to conserve some populations (e.g.. Hungary and Romania) (CoE, 2003). Detailed recommendations for conservation action to protect this species can be found in Edgar and Bird (2006).
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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species occurs in the protected cedar forest reserve Ciglikara Ormani in the Turkish western Taurus Mountains (Göran Nilson pers. comm., October 2008). Further research is needed to confirm the range, population status of this species, and the impact of collection.
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Conservation

Meadow vipers appear in a number of protected areas, including the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve in Romania (V. u. moldavica) (11) and Bjelasica Mountain National Park (V. u. macrops) in eastern Montenegro (10). Attempts are being made to preserve the very small Hungarian population through a four year programme funded by the Ministry of Environment and Water Affairs and the EU LIFE-Nature fund, which focuses on four major tasks: habitat reconstruction, monitoring and related studies, a publicity campaign and the establishment of the Viper Conservation and Breeding Centre (10). This Centre started operating in 2004 with ten adult snakes collected from different populations (10) and, as of August 2005, four females had produced a total of 69 offspring, 25 the first year and 44 the second (3). These vipers will hopefully be released into selected habitat in the future (10). Should the release of these snakes into the wild prove successful, captive breeding could be a viable option for the effective conservation of the other subspecies, especially the Critically Endangered V. u. moldavica. The fact that the Hungarian meadow viper appears to breed well in captivity is therefore extremely encouraging and provides new hope for the future survival of the meadow viper.
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Wikipedia

Vipera ursinii

Common names: meadow viper, Ursini's viper,[3] meadow adder,[4] (more).

Vipera ursinii is a venomous viper and a very widespread species, found from southeastern France all the way to China (Xinjiang).[2] No subspecies are currently recognized.[5]

Etymology[edit]

The specific name or epithet, ursinii, is in honor of Italian naturalist Antonio Orsini (1788–1870).[6]

Subspecies[edit]

Vipera ursini rakosiensis is native to Hungary[7] according to the reference of the Ferto-Hansag National Park of Hungary[8] (See "Taxonomy" section for other subspecies.)

Description[edit]

Adults average 40–50 cm (16–20 inches) in total length, although specimens of 63–80 cm (25–31½ inches) have been reported.[3] Females are larger than males. Although sometimes confused with V. aspis or V. berus, it differs from them in the following characters. The smallest viper in Europe, its body is thick, its head narrow, and its appearance rough. The snout is not upturned. There are always several large scales or plates on the top of the head. The prominently keeled dorsal scales are in only 19 rows, and often dark skin shows between them. It is gray, tan, or yellowish with a dark undulating dorsal stripe, which is edged with black.[9]

Common names[edit]

Meadow viper, Ursini's viper,[3] meadow adder,[4] Orsini's viper, field viper,[10] field adder.[11] Although the following subspecies are currently invalid according to the taxonomy used here, their common names may still be encountered:

  • V. u. ursinii – Italian meadow viper.[10]
  • V. u. macrops – karst viper,[10] karst adder.[4]
  • V. u. rakosiensis – Danubian meadow viper.[10]
  • V. renardi – steppe viper,[10] steppe adder, Renard's viper.[4]
  • V. u. moldavica – Moldavian meadow viper.

Geographic range[edit]

Southeastern France, eastern Austria (extinct), Hungary, central Italy, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, northern and northeastern Macedonia, Albania, Romania, northern Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, northwestern Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and eastern Uzbekistan steppes to China (Xinjiang).

The type locality given is " ...monti dell' Abruzzo prossimi alla provincia d'Ascoli... " (...mountains of Abruzzo near the Province of Ascoli Piceno, Italy...).[2]

Conservation status[edit]

This species is considered to be a Vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, due to habitat destruction caused by changes in agricultural practices and climate change in mountain areas, and to collection for the pet trade.[1]

In addition, this species is listed on CITES Appendix I, which means that it is threatened with extinction if trade is not halted,[12] and is a strictly protected species (Appendix II) under the Berne Convention.[13]

Taxonomy[edit]

There is high genetic diversity within samples of V. ursinii and several species may be involved. At least six subspecies may be encountered in modern literature:[2]

Golay et al. (1993) recognize the first four,[2] while Mallow et al. (2003) recognize five and list V. eriwanensis and V. renardi as valid species.[3] However, McDiarmid et al. (1999), and thus ITIS, feel that more definitive data is necessary before any subspecies can be recognized.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Joger, Ulrich; Crnobrnja Isailovic, Jelka; Vogrin, Milan; Corti, Claudia; Sterijovski, Bogoljub; Westerström, Alexander; Krecsák, László; Pérez Mellado, Valentin; Sá-Sousa, Paulo; Cheylan, Marc; Pleguezuelos, Juan M.; Sindaco, Roberto (2008). "Vipera ursinii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f 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).
  3. ^ a b c d Mallow D, Ludwig D, Nilson G. 2003. True Vipers: Natural History and Toxinology of Old World Vipers. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company. 359 pp. ISBN 0-89464-877-2.
  4. ^ a b c d 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.
  5. ^ "Vipera ursinii". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 19 August 2006. 
  6. ^ Bonaparte, Carlo Luciano. 1835. Iconografia della fauna italica per le quattro classi degli animali vertebrati. Tomo 2. Amfibi. Rome: Salviucci. pages unnumbered. (Pelias Ursinii )
  7. ^ Hungary
  8. ^ Fertő-Hanság National Park
  9. ^ Arnold EN, Burton JA. 1978. A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe. London: Collins. 272 pp. ISBN 0-00-219318-3. (Vipera ursinii, pp. 215-217 + Plate 39 + Map 121.)
  10. ^ a b c d e 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.
  11. ^ Hellmich W. 1962. Reptiles and Amphibians of Europe. London: Blandford Press. 160 pp. + 68 plates. Translated from Winter C. 1956. Die Lurche und Kriechtiere Europas. Heidelberg, Germany: Universitatsverlag, gegr. 1822, GmbH.
  12. ^ Vipera ursinii at CITES and United Nations Environment Programme / World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Accessed 8 October 2006.
  13. ^ Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, Appendix II at Council of Europe. Accessed 9 October 2006.

Further reading[edit]

  • Golay P, Smith HM, Broadley DG, Dixon JR, McCarthy CJ, Rage J-C, Schätti B, Toriba M. 1993. Endoglyphs and Other Major Venomous Snakes of the World: A Checklist. Geneva: Azemiops. 478 pp.
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