Morphometric characteristics and seasonal proximity to water of the Cypriot blunt-nosed viper Macrovipera lebetina lebetina (Linnaeus, 1758)
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/15765
Background The blunt-nosed viper Macrovipera lebetina (Linnaeus, 1758) is a medically important snake species in the Middle East. Its nominate subspecies Macrovipera l. lebetina is confined to Cyprus, where it is the only dangerously venomous snake species and heavily pursued. Despite the viper’s large size, data on its body mass and sex-specific morphological differences are scarce. It is commonly believed that M. l. lebetina prefers freshwater proximity during summer. Hence, we aimed at investigating M. l. lebetina sex-specific morphological differences and its possible attraction to freshwater bodies in late summer. Methods Morphometric characteristics, proximity to water and conservation status of M. l. lebetina were investigated in Paphos district (Cyprus) in 2014, 2015 and 2017. Vipers were caught in different habitats, examined morphologically for metric and meristic characters, and released back into their habitat. Additionally, local people were interviewed about the conservation situation of the species. Results Of 38 recorded blunt-nosed vipers, morphological characteristics were collected from 34 (10 adult males, 16 adult females, eight unsexed juveniles). Rounded total length (ToL) ranged from 23.5 cm to 133.0 cm and weight between 10 g and 1456 g. Adult males significantly exceeded adult females in tail length (TaL), ToL and head length (HL). No significant sex-specific differences were found in snout-vent length (SVL), head width (HW), weight or body condition index (BCI), nor for the ratios TaL / SVL, TaL / ToL, HL / SVL or HL / HW. Adult females from late summer (2015) had a significantly lower mean BCI than those from spring (2014). Distances of blunt-nosed vipers to the nearest water bodies (natural and artificial, respectively) did not differ significantly between spring (2014) and late summer (2015). There was also no significant difference between the distances of vipers to natural and to artificial water bodies in spring (and late summer). Conclusions Adult male blunt-nosed vipers exceed adult females in TaL, ToL and HL. Adult females are likely in a more vulnerable body condition in late summer than in spring. Periodic drying out of freshwater bodies in summer probably does not affect the species’ occurrence. Educational workshops and habitat conservation are recommended for reducing human-viper conflict.