Vipera aspis aspis   Linnaeus, 1758

Distribution and habitat: In Spain it occupies the Pyrenees and Pre-Pyrenees from the province of Girona to the province of Navarra. Towards the west it reaches the province of Burgos and the extreme east of Cantabria.

There are several contact zones between Vipera aspis aspis and Vipera seoanei, specifically in the northeast of Burgos where some hybrid specimens have been found.
There are also several contact zones between Vipera aspis aspis and Vipera latastei, like in the north of the province of Soria. Apparently these two species can produce hybrids with a greater frequency.
Vipera aspis
Vipera aspis aspis juvenile female - photo: Raúl Doblado

Vipera aspis
Habitat of Vipera aspis aspis (Soria)
photo: Fernando Arranz

The Asp viper is a species which is closely related to alpine habitat; densely forested surroundings with a certain degree of humidity.

It is found at a higher altitude than the Lataste´s viper and the Seoane´s viper, in as much as it habitually surpasses 2000 mts (6500 feet) a.s.l.

Dosal pattern – camouflage, film by Juan Timms

Like the rest of the European vipers Vipera aspis aspis inhabits areas where ferns are abundant, because these plants offer a perfect camouflage for this kind of snake.

Fern leafs are very similar to the viper´s zigzag pattern, and the shadows that they project on the ground configure an optimum camouflage.

Colouration: Even though there is a certain degree of variability, in Spain the colouration of specimens from different populations of Vipera aspis aspis tends to be quite uniform; males are generally grey while females are brown, grey or greyish brown. The dorsal pattern consists of a series of dark transverse crossbars set along a faint longitudinal brownish line which runs through the entire dorsum of the body. There is also a series of dark vertical blotches along both flanks of the body each of which coincides between the transverse crossbars of the zigzag pattern.

Head: The head ornamentation is very accentuated and variable, especially in males. The typical inverted V is easily recognizable although in some specimens it might be fragmented.
The frontal and parietal scales are frequently fragmented. Males usually exhibit more pigmentation in the supralabials than the females, normally in the sutures between the second and third supralabials and between the fourth and fifth supralabials.

There are 2 canthals on each side of the head, 2 apical scales and 2 rows of scales between the eye and the supralabials.

Vipera aspis
Vipera aspis aspis, head detail
photo: Daniel Gómez

Pholidosis: Vipera aspis aspis has 21 rows of dorsal scales (rarely 19 or 23) along the body. All of the dorsal scales are keeled except for the first row on either side of the body.

The number of ventrals varies between 136 and 158 in males and between 137 and 159 in females.

The number of paired subcaudals lies between 33 and 50 in males and between 27 and 42 in females (Saint-Girons, 1978a; Saint-Girons et al., 1983).

Vipera aspis
Vipera aspis aspis, ventral aspect
photo: Raúl Doblado

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