Article: article from journal or magazin.
Influence of climate on the presence of colour polymorphism in two montane reptile species.
The coloration of ectotherms plays an important role in thermoregulation processes. Dark individuals should heat up faster and be able to reach a higher body temperature than light individuals and should therefore have benefits in cool areas. In central Europe, montane local populations of adder (Vipera berus) and asp viper (Vipera aspis) exhibit a varying proportion of melanistic individuals. We tested whether the presence of melanistic V. aspis and V. berus could be explained by climatic conditions. We measured the climatic niche position and breadth of monomorphic (including strictly patterned individuals) and polymorphic local populations, calculated their niche overlap and tested for niche equivalency and similarity. In accordance with expectations, niche overlap between polymorphic local populations of both species is high, and even higher than that of polymorphic versus monomorphic montane local populations of V. aspis, suggesting a predominant role of melanism in determining the niche of ectothermic vertebrates. However, unexpectedly, the niche of polymorphic local populations of both species is narrower than that of monomorphic ones, indicating that colour polymorphism does not always enable the exploitation of a greater variability of resources, at least at the intraspecific level. Overall, our results suggest that melanism might be present only when the thermoregulatory benefit is higher than the cost of predation.
reptile, melanism, thermoregulation, niche
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