LATASTE´S VIPER - Vipera latastei   Boscá, 1878

The Lataste´s viper (Vipera latastei) inhabits the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa. It is found throughout the entire Iberian Peninsula except for a narrow strip that runs along the north from the extreme west of Galicia to the extreme east of Catalunya. In the African continent it is found in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

Vipea latastei
Head detail of a male
Vipera latastei latastei - photo: Edgar Wefer
Description: It is a small snake, with an average length of 50 to 60 cm. (20-25 inch), only rarely some specimens may reach up to 75 cm (30 inch).
The head has a triangular shape and is clearly separate from the rest of the body. The most remarkable feature in this species is the upturned snout.

The dorsum of the head shows various degrees of ornamentation, nevertheless, two crescent moon shaped marks are almost always present. A dark postocular stripe is present on both sides of the head, which runs from the eye to the angle of the jaw.

Unlike most colubrids, which have an eye with a round pupil, the Lataste´s viper has an elliptical pupil, which it always keeps in a vertical position. The top of the head is covered with small scales, although some specimens show traces of a frontal scale and very rarely of reduced parietal scales.
From the neck to the tail the body is covered with small scales called dorsal scales. All the dorsal scales are keeled except for the first row on either side of the body. The under side of the body or belly is covered with ventral scales (from the gular region to the vent) and subcaudal scales (tail).

Vipea latastei
Vipera latastei, ventral aspect
photo: Raul Doblado
The dorsal pattern of Vipera latastei is similar to that of other European vipers; consisting of a wavy vertebral stripe or zigzag which is darker than the body ground colour.

Biology: Like other reptiles which inhabit regions with a temperate climate, the Lataste´s viper goes through a prolonged period of activity and a period of hibernation throughout the year. Activity begins when temperatures soften around mid-March, and it extends until the end of October when temperatures start to decrease, announcing the coming of winter.

Every year during the activity period the vipers feed periodically. The adult specimens shed their skin once or twice each season (juveniles shed more often) and they go through their reproductive cycle.
With the coming of winter vipers hide underground, using burrows and tunnels where they spend all the winter hibernating in a lethargic mode.
During the 4 - 5 months of hibernation the vipers remain practically motionless and do not feed.

Vipea latastei
Vipera latastei skin shed - photo: Juan Timms

Feeding: The Lataste´s viper is a diurnal predator which lies in wait for prey.
The viper uses its venomous apparatus to kill the prey. Adult specimens feed primarily on small rodents, completing their diet with lizards, birds and invertebrates (centipedes, scorpions, etc).
On the other hand, juveniles feed mainly on lizards and invertebrates (crickets).
Vipera latastei gaditana, feeding - film by Juan Timms

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