A home for three: analysing ecological correlates of body traits in a triple contact zone of alpine vipers

Details

Serval ID
serval:BIB_0E7FB36ADB2D
Type
Article: article from journal or magazin.
Collection
Publications
Institution
Title
A home for three: analysing ecological correlates of body traits in a triple contact zone of alpine vipers
Journal
North-Western Journal of Zoology
Working group(s)
Mebert K., Luiselli L., Cafuta V., Golay P., Dubey S., Ursenbacher S.
ISSN
1843-5629
ISSN-L
1584-9074
Publication state
Published
Issued date
2017
Volume
13
Number
2
Pages
251-261
Language
english
Abstract
The medium-sized vipers of the genus Vipera are mainly parapatric in Europe and only a few contact zones (syntopies) are known between two species. The partial syntopy of three viper species (V. ammodytes, V. aspis, and V. berus) is exceptional and has become known only from two neighbouring valleys in the southern Julian Pre-Alps along the Italian-Slovenian border (Valle Mea and Nadiza Valley). This unique situation puts forward questions concerning their co-existence, particularly when considering that natural hybrids are known among all three species. Our principal goals for this article were therefore to evaluate variation and integrity of key dorsal colour pattern and body size among V. berus, V. ammodytes, and V. aspis from Mount Stol, Nadiza Valley in Slovenia. We discuss these variations in the context of potential hybridization, interspecific competition, and local to regional synecological properties including diet, habitat, and climate. Despite the fact that a pre-study specimen showed intermediate colour pattern, suggesting a hybrid between V. ammodytes and V. aspis, no further intermediate specimens (n > 100) were detected based on external features. Comparison of body length and mass shows equal sizes between V. ammodytes and V. aspis, whereas V. berus is approximately 30% smaller. Furthermore, V. berus on Mount Stol is also much smaller and lacks melanism, unlike V. berus from a close population in Italy (< 15 km), where they are larger and melanism is relatively frequent. These local character expressions presumably are the result of environmental constraints at high elevations (>1200 m asl.), such as a harsh climate of open, non-forested habitat and possibly a regionally different predation pressure and diet composition. At mid-elevation <1200 m asl., syntopic V. ammodytes and V. aspis may compete for food, yet, the previously evaluated microhabitat differences appear sufficient to maintain species integrity for these two viper populations.
Keywords
syntopy, Vipera ammodytes, V. aspis, V. berus, snakes, Slovenia, body size, colour pattern
Web of science
Create date
15/10/2016 18:57
Last modification date
20/08/2019 13:35
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