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There are many species of snake both closely and distantly related to Vipera lotievi whose common names may contain the term "adder". Vipera lotievi is the only species whose actual common name is "adder". Vipera lotievi is also sometimes referred to as the common viper. The common name "adder" is often given to venomous vipers (Viperidae) throughout the Old World. Several examples of other "adders" are: rhombic night adder, Causus rhombeatus, puff adder, Bitis arietans, and death adder, Acanthophis antarcticus.

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Muir, K. 2006. "Vipera berus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vipera_berus.html
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Kat Muir, Kalamazoo College
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Behavior

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There are several important senses utilized by Vipera lotievi in perceiving the environment and communicating between individuals. Adders have well-developed eyesight, which is valuable for hunting as well as general perception of the surrounding environment. In addition to sight, adders can hear, although they lack an outer ear. Instead, they detect sound through a mechanism called "skin-muscle-bone" route. Sound waves hit the skin of the adder and the vibrations are transfered through the jaw muscles and the several bones until they reach the snake's inner ear. Adders also have a well-developed sense of smell. They smell using both the tongue and nostrils. As Vipera lotievi flicks its tongue in and out of its mouth, the tongue is actually picking up tiny particles and molecules and transfering these to small openings on the roof of its mouth which lead to the olfactory center where the particulate matter will be identified as having a specific smell. These highly-developed senses combine to make Vipera lotievi individuals very effective predators.

Communication between adders is very important during mating season. The sense of smell plays an especially important role in mating, particularly in finding an appropriate mate. In general, snakes emit pheromones that can be sensed by other snakes. Pheromones are key chemical indicators in reproduction. Pheromones can indicate whether a female is sexually ready to reproduce. Pheromones can linger in the air long after a snake has occupied a given area, which further aids in communication between individuals over longer distances. As pheromones are chemical indicators, snakes sense pheromones using chemical receptors such as taste and/or smell.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Muir, K. 2006. "Vipera berus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vipera_berus.html
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Conservation Status

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Adders are a protected species in some countries, Britain being one example. Their reputation as venomous has been quite detrimental to conservation efforts. People have been inclined to kill adders regardless of their conservation status because of their fear of these animals. Adders also suffer from loss of habitat, mostly due to human activities such as development and agriculture. Deforestation and scrub encroachment on preferred habitats also negatively impacts adders.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: no special status

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Muir, K. 2006. "Vipera berus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vipera_berus.html
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Life Cycle

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Adders are viviparous. Adder eggs are fertilized internally during copulation.

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Muir, K. 2006. "Vipera berus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vipera_berus.html
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Benefits

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Adders are venomous snakes and their bites are dangerous to humans. While adder bites are rarely fatal, they do require immediate medical treatment and are very painful. Adders can kill small animals like dogs and cats if they feel threatened. Pets should therefore be closely watched in areas where adders occur.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings, venomous )

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Benefits

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Adders play a key role in controlling populations of rodents and other small animals that are sometimes considered pests. Adders can also be milked to collect their venom, which can then be used to produce anti-venom for the treatment of adder bites.

Positive Impacts: source of medicine or drug ; controls pest population

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Muir, K. 2006. "Vipera berus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vipera_berus.html
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Associations

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One of the important roles played by Vipera lotievi is controlling the populations of small mammals, particularly rodents. Adders also contribute to the control of small bird, frog, and lizard populations. In addition, adders provide a source of food for larger mammals and birds.

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Muir, K. 2006. "Vipera berus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vipera_berus.html
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Trophic Strategy

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Adders are carnivorous and consume a variety of prey, including small mammals such as voles (Arvicolinae), shrews (Soricidae), and mice (Murinae), as well as small lizards, birds, and frogs. There are two predatory techniques generally utilized by Vipera lotievi. The first is called the “sit and wait”, or ambush, technique. Adders wait in one place for prey to pass by so they can strike out, using fangs to inject their prey with enough venom to be fatal. Their keen sense of smell is then used to follow the wounded animal to its death where Vipera lotievi will proceed to consume the animal head first. The second technique involves actively seeking out prey. Adders generally use this technique when they are most active. Being a crepuscular creature these hours are usually right around dusk.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)

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Muir, K. 2006. "Vipera berus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vipera_berus.html
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Distribution

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Adders occupy one of the largest natural ranges of any venomous snake. Adders can be found from the United Kingdom to the Pacific coast of Asia. They are found as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as the Mediterranean Sea.

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native )

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Muir, K. 2006. "Vipera berus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vipera_berus.html
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Habitat

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Adders can live in woodlands, moorlands, heathlands, and wetlands. Open, sunny glades and/or slopes suitable for sunning are important components of preferred habitats. It is also crucial that there is relatively dense ground cover available for adders to find shelter. Adders can survive in cold grasslands found in the northernmost areas of its range.

Range elevation: 0 to 1540 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest

Wetlands: marsh

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Muir, K. 2006. "Vipera berus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vipera_berus.html
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Life Expectancy

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Adders have a fairly long lifespan. They generally live for 10 to 15 years in the wild. There are reports that claim adders have reached 25 years of age. Little information is available describing the lifespans of captive adders. This may stem from the fact that adders are neither desirable as pets, nor particularly endangered, thus few are kept in captivity.

Range lifespan
Status: wild:
25 (high) years.

Typical lifespan
Status: wild:
15 (high) years.

Average lifespan
Status: wild:
10 years.

Average lifespan
Status: captivity:
2.1 years.

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Muir, K. 2006. "Vipera berus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vipera_berus.html
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Morphology

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Adders begin life approximately 16-18 cm long and can grow as long as 80 cm. The mass of male adders generally ranges from 50 to 70 grams, while the mass of females ranges from 80 to 100 grams. Mature adders may be a variety of colors. In general, male adders are grey, cream, whitish, or pale-yellow, with a distinct dark pattern on their backs and sides. This pattern can be described as zig-zag or a series of contiguous “X”s. The sides of Vipera lotievi often have a broken zig-zag pattern. Adders have a distinctive superorbital scale pattern, the scales extend over their eyes, giving them a lidded appearance. Vipera lotievi has a recognizable dark colored “V” on its head, the point of which can be found between its eyes. Female adders have the same distinct patterns along their backs and heads, but their coloring is slightly different. Females are usually reddish in color with brown-toned markings. Juvenile adders are also generally reddish. Occasionally, adders can be completely melanistic.

Adders, like other members of Viperidae, have hinged fangs used to inject venom into their prey. Hinged fangs fold at the base to lie against the roof of the mouth. This feature enables these fangs to grow quite large in comparison to those belonging to snakes without hinged fangs.

Range mass: 50 to 100 g.

Range length: 16 to 80 cm.

Average length: 60 cm.

Other Physical Features: heterothermic ; venomous

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; sexes colored or patterned differently

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Muir, K. 2006. "Vipera berus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vipera_berus.html
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Associations

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There are several major predators that may prey on Vipera lotievi, both vertebrates and invertebrates. The most prominent vertebrate predators include foxes, Eurasian badgers, large diurnal birds of prey, and owls. Adders can also be preyed upon by larger snakes. Adders are cryptically colored, which protects them from many predators, and they can defend themselves with their venomous bites.

Known Predators:

  • foxes (Vulpes
  • Eurasian badgers (Meles meles)
  • diurnal birds of prey (Falconiformes)
  • owls (Strigiformes)
  • snakes (Serpentes)

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Muir, K. 2006. "Vipera berus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vipera_berus.html
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Reproduction

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Adders mate seasonally in the spring, usually April, soon after emerging from hibernation. The males emerge first and stay close to the hibernation site in an area referred to as the mating ground. As females emerge, males swarm around them and allow females to choose a mate with whom to copulate. Male adders can also locate sexually receptive females using their keen sense of smell. After locating a receptive mate, copulation occurs. Males generally remain with the female for several hours after mating. During this time, the male will fight any other males who attempt to court his mate. When two adders fight, both raise their bodies into the air and intertwine themselves in an attempt to wrestle one another to the ground. This method of fighting is known as the "dance of the adders". After several hours of remaining with his mate, the male leaves to find another mate.

There are several notable courtship rituals that occur before mating between a male and female. These rituals include tongue flicking, tail vibrations, and body quivering. When two males try to court the same female, fighting can occur during which males raise the upper half of their bodies off the ground and attempt to wrestle each other to the ground. More than two males can be involved in these fights.

Mating System: polygynous

April is the most common month during which adders reproduce. Their gestation period ranges from three to four months, so young live adders are born during the fall months, generally during hibernation. Female adders usually give birth to approximately 12 live young. Three to four years following birth, these young adders will be ready to mate with other adders.

The gestation period is approximately 3 to 4 months. Young adders are often born slightly before or during hibernation in those populations that hibernate. The young are born with fat reserves to aid them in survival until the end of hibernation. They also have access to a yolk sac, which is full of nutrients necessary for survival. At birth, Vipera lotievi individuals measure approximately 16 to 18 cm long. Young adders will not become sexually mature for 3 to 4 years.

Breeding interval: Adders breed once a year in the spring.

Breeding season: Copulation between adders occurs in early spring, generally during the month of April. Young adders are generally born in the fall, generally during hibernation.

Average number of offspring: 12.

Range gestation period: 3 to 4 months.

Average time to independence: 3 hours.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 to 4 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 to 4 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; sexual ; viviparous

It is not well known how long young Vipera lotievi remain with their mothers. The offspring of other species of viviparous vipers have been known to remain with the mother for several hours after birth before dispersing. Young vipers are independent soon after birth.

Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Female)

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Muir, K. 2006. "Vipera berus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vipera_berus.html
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Biology

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Adders are typically active during the day, when they hunt mainly for small mammals, including voles, shrews and mice. Lizards, young birds and frogs may also be taken (8). In warm conditions, adders actively hunt their prey, but they often use a 'sit and wait' technique. The adder strikes prey animals with its fangs to inject venom, it then releases the prey and follows the scent trail it leaves behind. Upon finding the dying or already dead animal, the adder begins to swallow it head first (3). Adders emerge from hibernation in March, with males emerging before females (3). For the first few weeks after emergence, they are fairly inactive and spend much of their time basking (8). After the males shed their skin in April they become more active and begin to search for mates by following scent trails. Females shed their skin a month later than males, and both sexes shed again later on in summer. Adders do not feed until after they have mated, and so during the time before mating, males and females live off fat reserves that they built up during the previous year (3). Upon discovering a receptive female, a male begins a courtship display in which he flicks his tongue over the female's body. The male and female may vibrate their tails briefly and bouts of body quivering may ensue. If the courtship is a success, copulation takes place, after which the pair may remain together for two hours or so. If another male approaches a pair at any point, the first male will defend the female aggressively, and a fight may result (3). These fights are known as 'the dance of the adders' as the males partly raise their bodies off the ground and may become entwined, often repeatedly falling to the ground and rising up again. More than two males may be involved in such a contest (4). Female adders reproduce once every two years and are 'viviparous'; they give birth to live young which are initially encased in a membrane (7). Towards the end of August or early September, the female will return to the site of hibernation, and give birth to 3-18 young. After giving birth they must feed intensively in order to build up sufficient reserves for hibernation (3). The young adders do not feed until the following year, but live off a yolk sac and fat reserves that they are born with. They reach sexual maturity at 3-4 years of age (3). Adders usually enter their hibernacula in September or October (3). Hibernacula are often the abandoned burrows of small mammals typically located on high, dry ground (8). A single hibernation site can contain around 100 adders (9). Although adders are poisonous, they are not aggressive and rarely bite humans or domestic animals, preferring to retreat into thick vegetation instead. Most adder bite incidents result when they are picked up or trodden upon, and in most cases they are not serious. The elderly, the very young or people in ill health are at most risk (3).
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Conservation

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Although this species isn't threatened with extinction in Britain at present, the long-term survival of all our native amphibians and reptiles remains in the balance (3). Interest in reptiles and amphibians has increased massively in the last 30 years and there are now conservation charities dedicated to these fascinating and often overlooked species, such as the Herpetological Conservation Trust (5). The ecology and habits of the adder are well understood, and effective monitoring is in place. This will enable the status of the population to be tracked carefully, so that any future decline will be apparent and informed conservation action can take place. Although not classified as a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP), the adder is featured in a number of Local Biodiversity Action Plans. An important proposed action is to educate the public about this species to dispel the fears and prejudice surrounding it and reduce its deliberate persecution (5).
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Description

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The adder is Britain's only venomous snake and is, as a result, a much-maligned species with a wealth of folklore surrounding it (4). Despite the public perception of this snake, however, it is a shy, timid and non-aggressive species (5). This stocky snake is easily identified by the dark zigzag line passing along the back bordered by rows of spots. A dark mark which takes the form of an 'X', 'V' or 'H' is located on the rear of the angular head and the pupil is vertical (3). Males are greyish, whitish, pale yellow or cream in colour with very dark contrasting markings, whereas females are typically a brownish or reddish colour with brown markings (2). Females also tend to be longer and wider than males, and have shorter tails. Male and female juveniles are reddish in colour (3). In all cases, the belly is grey, greyish-brown or bluish, and the throat is dirty yellow or white. Completely black (melanistic) adders arise quite frequently (3).
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Habitat

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Found in a range of habitats including open heathland, woodland and moors. It requires sunny glades or slopes where it can bask and dense cover in which to take shelter (7).
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Range

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In Britain the adder has a rather patchy distribution. It is more numerous in southern England than the north, is not common in the Midlands, but is fairly numerous in west Wales and southwest England. It is widespread in Scotland but is absent from the Outer Hebrides, the Central Lowlands and the Northern Isles (3). The adder has the widest global distribution of all terrestrial snakes; it is found from Scandinavia to central France, reaching as far east as the Pacific coast of Russia, and is the only snake to occur in the Arctic Circle (3). It is not, however, found in Ireland (6).
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Status

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It is illegal to kill, injure, harm or sell adders under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (3).
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Threats

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There is evidence that there was a decline in adder numbers in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s, which was most marked in southern England. In Europe the population has decreased by 25% in the last 25 years, and the species has an unfavourable conservation status (8). Habitat loss is proposed as the major threat facing the species. The open habitats it needs, including heathland, have been lost as a result of scrub encroachment, development, agriculture and afforestation. Remaining habitats are fragmented, causing isolation and problems with movement. A further threat is the persecution of this fascinating species by humans. Despite the legal protection afforded the adder by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, deliberate killings unfortunately still take place (8).
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Distribution

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Continent: Asia
Distribution: Russia (northern slope of Caucasus)
Type locality: S Russia (N Caucasus), Georgia
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Distribution

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Continent: Asia
Distribution: Ukraine (vicinity of Kharkhov), Central and S Russia
Type locality: near the city of Kharkov, Ukraine
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Distribution

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Continent: Asia Europe
Distribution: Norway, Sweden, Finland, France, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, N Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Great Britain, Poland, Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia), Hungary, Romania, Belarus, Turkey, Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia: Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Hercegowina, Monte Negro, Macedonia, Serbia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Mongolia, North Korea, NW China (N Xinjiang, Jilin) bosniensis: Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, N Albania, N Greece, Hungary sachalinensis: E Russia (Sachalin Island and adjacent mainland)
Type locality: Uppsala, Sweden
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Distribution

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Continent: Asia
Distribution: Amur Oblast, Primorskye Kray and Khabarovsk Kray (Far East, Russia), Sakhalin Island (Russia), NE China, North Korea
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Vipera berus

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Vipera berus, the common European adder[3] or common European viper,[4] is a venomous snake that is extremely widespread and can be found throughout most of Western Europe and as far as East Asia.[2] The species is also the only venomous snake native to Great Britain.

Known by a host of common names including common adder and common viper, adders have been the subject of much folklore in Britain and other European countries.[5] They are not regarded as especially dangerous;[3] the snake is not aggressive and usually bites only when really provoked, stepped on, or picked up. Bites can be very painful, but are seldom fatal.[6] The specific name, berus, is New Latin and was at one time used to refer to a snake, possibly the grass snake, Natrix natrix.[7]

The common adder is found in different terrains, habitat complexity being essential for different aspects of its behaviour. It feeds on small mammals, birds, lizards, and amphibians, and in some cases on spiders, worms, and insects. The common adder, like most other vipers, is ovoviviparous. Females breed once every two or three years, with litters usually being born in late summer to early autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. Litters range in size from three to 20 with young staying with their mothers for a few days. Adults grow to a total length (including tail) of 60 to 90 cm (24 to 35 in) and a mass of 50 to 180 g (1.8 to 6.3 oz). Three subspecies are recognized, including the nominate subspecies, Vipera berus berus described here.[8] The snake is not considered to be threatened, though it is protected in some countries.

Taxonomy

The species has three recognised subspecies:

The subspecies V. b. bosniensis and V. b. sachalinensis have been regarded as full species in some recent publications.[3]

The name 'adder' is derived from nædre, an Old English word that had the generic meaning of serpent in the older forms of many Germanic languages. It was commonly used in the Old English version of the Christian Scriptures for the devil and the serpent in the Book of Genesis.[5][11] In the 14th century, 'a nadder' in Middle English was rebracketed to 'an adder' (just as 'a napron' became 'an apron' and 'a nompere' changed into 'an umpire').

In keeping with its wide distribution and familiarity through the ages, Vipera berus has a large number of common names in English, which include:

Common European adder,[3] common European viper,[4] European viper,[12] northern viper,[13] adder, common adder, crossed viper, European adder,[10] common viper, European common viper, cross adder,[9] or common cross adder.[14]

In Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the snake is known as hugorm, hoggorm and huggorm, roughly translated as 'striking snake'. In Finland, it is known as kyykäärme or simply kyy, in Estonia it is known as rästik, while in Lithuania it is known as angis. In Poland the snake is called żmija zygzakowata, which translates as 'zigzag viper', due to the pattern on its back.

Description

Relatively thick-bodied, adults usually grow to 60 cm (24 in) in total length (including tail), with an average of 55 cm (22 in).[3] Maximum size varies by region. The largest, at over 90 cm (35 in), are found in Scandinavia; specimens of 104 cm (41 in) have been observed there on two occasions. In France and Great Britain, the maximum size is 80–87 cm (31–34 in).[3] Mass ranges from 50 g (1.8 oz) to about 180 grams (6.3 oz).[15][16]

Shows the front parts of two common adders. One snake has the normal colour while the other has melanistic colour/pattern form. The head of the normal snake is enclosed in a half-coil of the melanistic form.
V. berus: normal and melanistic colour patterns

The head is fairly large and distinct and its sides are almost flat and vertical. The edge of the snout is usually raised into a low ridge. Seen from above, the rostral scale is not visible, or only just. Immediately behind the rostral, there are two (rarely one) small scales.

Dorsally, there are usually five large plates: a squarish frontal (longer than wide, sometimes rectangular), two parietals (sometimes with a tiny scale between the frontal and the parietals), and two long and narrow supraoculars. The latter are large and distinct, each separated from the frontal by one to four small scales. The nostril is situated in a shallow depression within a large nasal scale.

The eye is relatively large—equal in size or slightly larger than the nasal scale—but often smaller in females. Below the supraoculars are six to 13 (usually eight to 10) small circumorbital scales. The temporal scales are smooth (rarely weakly keeled). There are 10–12 sublabials and six to 10 (usually eight or 9) supralabials. Of the latter, the numbers 3 and 4 are the largest, while 4 and 5 (rarely 3 and 4) are separated from the eye by a single row of small scales (sometimes two rows in alpine specimens).[3]

Midbody there are 21 dorsal scales rows (rarely 19, 20, 22, or 23). These are strongly keeled scales, except for those bordering the ventral scales. These scales seem loosely attached to the skin and lower rows become increasingly wide; those closest to the ventral scales are twice as wide as the ones along the midline. The ventral scales number 132–150 in males and 132–158 in females. The anal plate is single. The subcaudals are paired, numbering 32–46 in males and 23–38 in females.[3]

The colour pattern varies, ranging from very light-coloured specimens with small, incomplete, dark dorsal crossbars to entirely brown ones with faint or clear, darker brown markings, and on to melanistic individuals that are entirely dark and lack any apparent dorsal pattern. However, most have some kind of zigzag dorsal pattern down the entire length of their bodies and tails. The head usually has a distinctive dark V or X on the back. A dark streak runs from the eye to the neck and continues as a longitudinal series of spots along the flanks.[3]

Unusually for snakes, the sexes are possible to tell apart by the colour. Females are usually brownish in hue with dark-brown markings, the males are pure grey with black markings. The basal colour of males will often be slightly lighter than that of the females, making the black zigzag pattern stand out. The melanistic individuals are often females.

Distribution and habitat

A common adder basking in the open upon loose moss litter with head resting upon its coil and facing away. The central part of its body is thick and it has probaby eaten recently.
V. berus

Vipera berus has a wide range. It can be found across the Eurasian land-mass; from northwestern Europe (Great Britain, Belgium, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Germany, France) across southern Europe (Italy, Serbia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and northern Greece) and eastern Europe to north of the Arctic Circle, and Russia to the Pacific Ocean, Sakhalin Island, North Korea, northern Mongolia and northern China. It is found farther north than any other snake species. The type locality was originally listed as 'Europa'. Mertens and Müller (1940) proposed restricting the type locality to 'Upsala, Schweden' (Uppsala, Sweden)[2] and it was eventually restricted to Berthåga, Uppsala by designation of a neotype by Krecsák & Wahlgren (2008).[17]

In several European countries, it is notable as being the only native venomous snake. It is one of only three snake species native to Britain. The other two, the barred grass snake and the smooth snake, are non-venomous.[18]

Sufficient habitat complexity is a crucial requirement for the presence of this species, in order to support its various behaviours—basking, foraging, and hibernation—as well as to offer some protection from predators and human harassment.[3] It is found in a variety of habitats, including: chalky downs, rocky hillsides, moors, sandy heaths, meadows, rough commons, edges of woods, sunny glades and clearings, bushy slopes and hedgerows, dumps, coastal dunes, and stone quarries. It will venture into wetlands if dry ground is available nearby and thus may be found on the banks of streams, lakes, and ponds.[19]

In much of southern Europe, such as southern France and northern Italy, it is found in either low lying wetlands or at high altitudes. In the Swiss Alps, it may ascend to about 3,000 m (9,800 ft). In Hungary and Russia, it avoids open steppeland; a habitat in which V. ursinii is more likely to occur. In Russia, however, it does occur in the forest steppe zone.[19]

Conservation status

An adult female adder found basking in the sun by Loch Shin, Sutherland in Scotland. She preferred to pose for a photograph rather than slither away.
V. berus female

In Great Britain, it is illegal to kill, injure, harm or sell adders under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.[20] The same situation applies to Norway under the Viltloven (The Wildlife Act 1981)[21] and Denmark (1981).[22] The common viper is categorised as 'endangered' in Switzerland,[23] and is also protected in some other countries in its range. It is also found in many protected areas.[1] This species is listed as protected (Appendix III) under the Berne Convention.[24]

The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species describes the conservation status as of 'least concern' in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, broad range of habitats, and likely slow rate of decline though it acknowledges the population to be decreasing.[25] Reduction in habitat for a variety of reasons, fragmentation of populations in Europe due to intense agriculture practices, and collection for the pet trade or for venom extraction have been recorded as major contributing factors for its decline.[1] A citizen science based survey in the UK found evidence of extensive population declines in the UK, especially affecting smaller populations.[26] A combination of public pressure and disturbance, habitat fragmentation and poor habitat management were considered the most likely causes of the decline. The release of 47 million non-native pheasants and 10 million partridges each year by countryside estates has also been suggested to have a significant impact on adder populations across the UK, with the possibility the reptile could be extinct within 12 years.[27]

Behaviour

A slender adder lies in a half circle on the bare soil which has a few dried leaves. The black zig-zag pattern along the dorsal spine of the snake contrasts against the white borders forming a pattern resembling the teeth of an open zip.
V. berus male

This species is mainly diurnal, especially in the north of its range. Further south it is said[28] to be active in the evening, and it may even be active at night during the summer months. It is predominantly a terrestrial species, although it has been known to climb up banks and into low bushes in order to bask or search for prey.[19]

Adders are not usually aggressive, tending to be rather timid and biting only when cornered or alarmed. People are generally bitten only after stepping on them or attempting to pick them up. They will usually disappear into the undergrowth at a hint of any danger, but will return once all is quiet, often to the same spot. Occasionally, individual snakes will reveal their presence with a loud and sustained hissing, presumably to warn off potential aggressors. Often, these turn out to be pregnant females. When the adder is threatened, the front part of the body is drawn into an S-shape to prepare for a strike.[19]

The species is cold-adapted and hibernates in the winter. In Great Britain, males and females hibernate for about 150 and 180 days, respectively. In northern Sweden hibernation lasts 8–9 months. On mild winter days, they may emerge to bask where the snow has melted and will often travel across snow. About 15% of adults and 30–40% of juveniles die during hibernation.[3]

Feeding

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V. berus female; head detail.

Diet consists mainly of small mammals, such as mice, rats, voles, and shrews, as well as lizards. Sometimes, slow worms are taken, and even weasels and moles. Adders also feed on amphibians, such as frogs, newts, and salamanders. Birds are also reported[29] to be consumed, especially nestlings and even eggs, for which they will climb into shrubbery and bushes. Generally, diet varies depending on locality.[19] Juveniles will eat nestling mammals, small lizards and frogs as well as worms and spiders. Once they reach about 30 cm (0.98 ft) in length, their diet begins to resemble that of the adults.[3]

Reproduction

In Hungary, mating takes place in the last week of April, whilst in the north it happens later (in the second week of May). Mating has also been observed in June and even early October, but it is not known if this autumn mating results in any offspring.[3] Females often breed once every two years,[19] or even once every three years if the seasons are short and the climate is not conducive.[3]

Closeup of snake coils with head resting on coil looking front and left. The gray dorsal scales on the thick coils are clearly seen as having prominent keels.
V. berus – showing strongly keeled scales on dorsal area.

Males find females by following their scent trails, sometimes tracking them for hundreds of metres a day. If a female is found and then flees, the male follows. Courtship involves side-by-side parallel 'flowing' behaviour, tongue flicking along the back and excited lashing of the tail. Pairs stay together for one or two days after mating. Males chase away their rivals and engage in combat. Often, this also starts with the aforementioned flowing behaviour before culminating in the dramatic 'adder dance'.[3] In this act, the males confront each other, raise up the front part of the body vertically, make swaying movements and attempt to push each other to the ground. This is repeated until one of the two becomes exhausted and crawls off to find another mate. Appleby (1971) notes that he has never seen an intruder win one of these contests, as if the frustrated defender is so aroused by courtship that he refuses to lose his chance to mate.[30] There is no record of any biting taking place during these bouts.[19]

Females usually give birth in August or September, but sometimes as early as July, or as late as early October. Litters range in size from 3 to 20. The young are usually born encased in a transparent sac from which they must free themselves. Sometimes, they succeed in freeing themselves from this membrane while still inside the female.

Neonates measure 14 to 23 cm (5.5 to 9.1 in) in total length (including tail), with an average total length of 17 cm (6.7 in). They are born with a fully functional venom apparatus and a reserve supply of yolk within their bodies. They shed their skins for the first time within a day or two. Females do not appear to take much interest in their offspring, but the young have been observed to remain near their mothers for several days after birth.[19]

Venom

Because of the rapid rate of human expansion throughout the range of this species, bites are relatively common. Domestic animals and livestock are frequent victims. In Great Britain, most instances occur in March–October. In Sweden, there are about 1,300 bites a year, with an estimated 12% that require hospitalisation.[3] At least eight different antivenoms are available against bites from this species.[31]

Mallow et al. (2003) describe the venom toxicity as being relatively low compared to other viper species. They cite Minton (1974) who reported the LD50 values for mice to be 0.55 mg/kg IV, 0.80 mg/kg IP and 6.45 mg/kg SC. As a comparison, in one test the minimum lethal dose of venom for a guinea pig was 40–67 mg, but only 1.7 mg was necessary when Daboia russelii venom was used.[3] Brown (1973) gives a higher subcutaneous LD50 range of 1.0–4.0 mg/kg.[14] All agree that the venom yield is low: Minton (1974) mentions 10–18 mg for specimens 48–62 cm (19–24.5 in) in length,[3] while Brown (1973) lists only 6 mg.[14] Relatively speaking, bites from this species are not highly dangerous.[3] In Britain there have been only 14 known fatalities since 1876—the last a 5-year-old child in 1975[6]—and one nearly fatal bite of a 39-year-old woman in Essex in 1998.[6] An 82-year-old woman died following a bite in Germany in 2004, although it is not clear whether her death was due to the effect of the venom.[32] Even so, professional medical help should always be sought as soon as possible after any bite.[33] Very occasionally bites can be life-threatening, particularly in small children, while adults may experience discomfort and disability long after the bite.[6] The length of recovery varies, but may take up to a year.[3] Suprisingly, Norway has on average registered one death from the snake every 10 years, despite only having 200-500 reports of bites a year. [34]

Local symptoms include immediate and intense pain, followed after a few minutes (but perhaps by as much as 30 minutes) by swelling and a tingling sensation. Blisters containing blood are not common. The pain may spread within a few hours, along with tenderness and inflammation. Reddish lymphangitic lines and bruising may appear, and the whole limb can become swollen and bruised within 24 hours. Swelling may also spread to the trunk, and with children, throughout the entire body. Necrosis and intracompartmental syndromes are very rare.[6]

Systemic symptoms resulting from anaphylaxis can be dramatic. These may appear within 5 minutes post bite, or can be delayed for many hours. Such symptoms include nausea, retching and vomiting, abdominal colic and diarrhoea, incontinence of urine and faeces, sweating, fever, vasoconstriction, tachycardia, lightheadedness, loss of consciousness, blindness, shock, angioedema of the face, lips, gums, tongue, throat and epiglottis, urticaria and bronchospasm. If left untreated, these symptoms may persist or fluctuate for up to 48 hours.[6] In severe cases, cardiovascular failure may occur.[3]

References

  1. ^ a b c J.C. Isailovic; M. Vogrin; C. Corti; P. Sá-Sousa; M. Cheylan; J.M. Pleguezuelos; L. Tomović; B. Sterijovski; U. Joger; A. Westerström; B. Borczyk; B. Schmidt; A. Meyer; R. Sindaco; D. Jelić (2009). "Vipera berus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2009: e.T157248A5059709. Retrieved 13 January 2020.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. (1999). Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Volume 1. Washington, District of Columbia: Herpetologists' League. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Mallow D, Ludwig D, Nilson G. (2003). True Vipers: Natural History and Toxinology of Old World Vipers. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89464-877-2.
  4. ^ a b Stidworthy J. (1974). Snakes of the World. New York: Grosset & Dunlap Inc. 160 pp. ISBN 0-448-11856-4.
  5. ^ a b "Everyday Adders – the Adder in Folklore". The Herpetological Conservation Trust. Archived from the original on 3 October 2009. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Warrell DA (2005). "Treatment of bites by adders and exotic venomous snakes". British Medical Journal. 331 (7527): 1244–1247. doi:10.1136/bmj.331.7527.1244. PMC 1289323. PMID 16308385.
  7. ^ Gotch AF. (1986). Reptiles: Their Latin Names Explained. Poole, UK: Blandford Press. 176 pp. ISBN 0-7137-1704-1.
  8. ^ a b c "Vipera berus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 15 August 2006.
  9. ^ a b 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.
  10. ^ a b Mehrtens JM. (1987). Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
  11. ^ "adder". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  12. ^ U.S. Navy. (1991). Poisonous Snakes of the World. United States Government. New York: Dover Publications Inc. 232 pp. ISBN 0-486-26629-X.
  13. ^ Vipera berus at the Reptarium.cz Reptile Database. Accessed 21 November 2007.
  14. ^ a b c 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.
  15. ^ Olsson, M.; Madsen, T.; Shine, R. (1997). "Is sperm really so cheap? Costs of reproduction in male adders,Vipera berus". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 264 (1380): 455–459. doi:10.1098/rspb.1997.0065. JSTOR 50437. PMC 1688262. (includes chart showing range of male mass in one population)
  16. ^ Strugariu, Alexandru; Zamfirescu, Ştefan R.; Gherghel, Iulian (2009). "First record of the adder (Vipera berus berus) in Argeș County (Southern Romania)". Biharean Biologist. 3 (2): 164. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2013. (gives example masses of females).
  17. ^ Krecsák L, Wahlgren R (2008). "A survey of the Linnaean type material of Coluber berus, Coluber chersea and Coluber prester (Serpentes, Viperidae)". Journal of Natural History. 42 (35–36): 2343–2377. doi:10.1080/00222930802126888. S2CID 83947746.
  18. ^ "Adder (Vipera berus)". Wildscreen Archive. Archived from the original on 7 November 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h Street D. (1979). The Reptiles of Northern and Central Europe. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd. 272 pp. ISBN 0-7134-1374-3.
  20. ^ "Adder (Vipera berus)". Arkive (Images of life on Earth). wildscreen.org.uk. Archived from the original on 11 July 2009. Retrieved 7 February 2010.. This ref cites Beebee T, & Griffiths R. (2000) Amphibians and Reptiles: a Natural History of the British Herpetofauna. London: Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. as the source.
  21. ^ Hoggorm on WWF Norway's nature lexicon
  22. ^ "Hugorm". Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark. Miljø- og Fødevareministeriet. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, Appendix III at Council of Europe. Accessed 7 February 2010.
  25. ^ "IV: The Categories". 2001 IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria version 3.1. iucnredlist.org. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  26. ^ Gardner, E.; Julian, A.; Monk, C.; Baker, J. (2019). "Make the Adder Count: population trends from a citizen science survey of UK adders". Herpetological Journal. 29: 57–70.
  27. ^ Milton, Nicholas (1 October 2020). "Game birds 'could wipe out adders in most of Britain within 12 years'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  28. ^ [1]Boulenger GA. (1913). Snakes of Europe. London: Methuen & Co. xi + 269 pp. (Vipera berus, pp. 230-239, Figure 35).
  29. ^ Leighton, Gerald R. (1901). The Life-History of British Serpents and Their Local Distribution in the British Isles. Edinburgh & London: Blackwood & Sons. p. 84. ISBN 1-4446-3091-1. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  30. ^ Appleby LG. (1971). British Snakes. London: J. Baker. 150 pp. ISBN 0-212-98393-8.
  31. ^ Vipera berus antivenoms at Munich Antivenom Index. Accessed 15 September 2006.
  32. ^ Tod durch Kreuzotterbiss? at Gemeinsames Giftinformationszentrum. A 44-year-old man was left seriously injured after he was bitten by an Adder at the Go-Ape adventure park in Dalby, Burgh Yorkshire UK. Accessed 25 May 2007.
  33. ^ McKillop, Ann (April 2021). "Advice on Adder Bites". First Aid Training Co-operative.
  34. ^ "Rekordmange bitt av hoggorm". 11 June 2021.
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Vipera berus: Brief Summary

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Vipera berus, the common European adder or common European viper, is a venomous snake that is extremely widespread and can be found throughout most of Western Europe and as far as East Asia. The species is also the only venomous snake native to Great Britain.

Known by a host of common names including common adder and common viper, adders have been the subject of much folklore in Britain and other European countries. They are not regarded as especially dangerous; the snake is not aggressive and usually bites only when really provoked, stepped on, or picked up. Bites can be very painful, but are seldom fatal. The specific name, berus, is New Latin and was at one time used to refer to a snake, possibly the grass snake, Natrix natrix.

The common adder is found in different terrains, habitat complexity being essential for different aspects of its behaviour. It feeds on small mammals, birds, lizards, and amphibians, and in some cases on spiders, worms, and insects. The common adder, like most other vipers, is ovoviviparous. Females breed once every two or three years, with litters usually being born in late summer to early autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. Litters range in size from three to 20 with young staying with their mothers for a few days. Adults grow to a total length (including tail) of 60 to 90 cm (24 to 35 in) and a mass of 50 to 180 g (1.8 to 6.3 oz). Three subspecies are recognized, including the nominate subspecies, Vipera berus berus described here. The snake is not considered to be threatened, though it is protected in some countries.

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