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Zoology (Jena). 2007;110(1):9-19. Epub 2006 Dec 11.

Reproductive ecology of Vipera latastei, in the Iberian Peninsula: implications for the conservation of a Mediterranean viper.

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Dep. Biología Animal y Ecología, Fac. Ciencias, Univ. Granada, E-18071 Granada, Spain.


Eurosiberian vipers have been considered model organisms, and studies on their reproductive ecology have afforded much of the current knowledge concerning viviparity in snakes. However, such studies are biased towards northern species and there is little information on Mediterranean species and/or populations. The reproductive ecology of Vipera latastei in the Iberian Peninsula was studied by analysing a large sample of specimens from collections, to better understand the conservation status of this Mediterranean viper. Males and females matured at small and similar body sizes (240 and 265 mm snout-vent length, respectively) and reproductive cycles in both sexes were seasonal. Spermatogenesis peaked in August, vitellogenesis developed in spring and the timing of the mating period was puzzling, with populations mating in autumn, spring, or in both seasons. The most striking finding was that adult females reproduced triennially on average. Lataste's viper is currently in continuous decline in the IP, and most of its populations are isolated in Mediterranean mountains. We hypothesize that prey scarcity and the brevity of the activity period in mountain habitats diminishes the ability of vipers to recover over the short term the energy expended in reproduction. The species needs 2 years for the acquisition and storage of energy ("capital breeder"), and a third year for the expenditure of this energy (in vitellogenesis and embryogenesis), a year during which females feed consistently ("income breeder"). Thus, this viper combines both strategies to supply the reproductive energy cost. Current decline in population and distribution, together with a poor capacity to renew populations, renders Lataste's viper vulnerable to environmental stochasticity.

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