Vipera latastei gaditana   Saint Girons, 1977

Distribution and habitat: The subspecies Vipera latastei gaditana inhabits the extreme southwest of the Iberian Peninsula and the north of Africa. In the Iberian Peninsula its distribution ranges from the south of Portugal (the northern limits are not clearly defined) to the western banks of the Guadalquivir River in the province of Huelva, where it is found throughout the entire province up to Sierra Morena in the north. It extends through the province of Seville along the wedge formed between Sierra Morena and the Guadalquivir River. In this area, specimens which belong to the nominate form are also present, and the Vipera latastei gaditana specimens already display some features of the nominate race.
Vipera latastei
Vipera latastei gaditana male, Annaba (Tunisia)
photo: Daniel Gómez

An apparently isolated population of Vipera latastei gaditana is found in the province of Jaen, specifically in the Sierra de Andujar. It is reasonable to deduce that this population had once been connected with the rest of the Vipera latastei gaditana populations along what today is known as the province of Cordoba. To this day, the few specimens studied from the province of Cordoba are all assignable to the nominate form.

Vipera latastei
Habitat of Vipera latastei gaditana, Doñana (Huelva)
photo: Juan Pablo González de la Vega
There is not much information concerning the distribution of this subspecies in the African continent, however it has been identified in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Quite probably the specimens found in the coastal regions of Morocco belong to the Vipera latastei gaditana subspecies, while the specimens found in the Riff Mountains have a greater affinity with the nominate form Vipera latastei latastei.

Vipera latastei gaditana is much less ubiquitous than Vipera latastei latastei, for it is only found in typical Mediterranean scrubland, where the vegetation cover consists of cork and evergreen oak, pine tree, rockrose and gorse. Besides, the elevation contour is determinant in its distributional limits since it is restricted to altitudes below 500 mts (1650 feet) a.s.l.

Colouration: Vipera latastei gaditana exhibits a well defined colouration. The specimens from Doñana in Huelva are the most representative of this subspecies. The colouration variability increases as we move further away from this spot and we get in closer proximity to the nominate form. The ground colour is light cream, almost white in some specimens. In sharp contrast with the ground colour a prominent dark vertebral stripe or zigzag is displayed. The striking colouration that Vipera latastei gaditana exhibits could be an aposematic signal against possible predators. The tail tip is yellow in 70% of the individuals and black in the remaining 30%.

Dorsal pattern: The vertebral stripe or zigzag is dark and very intense for both sexes and is always perfectly outlined. The inside may be light brown to dark brown, greyish or olive, the borders being intense black both on the outer edges and the inner edges of the zigzag.
Quite often the black outline is itself bordered with a whitish line which is half a dorsal scale wide. There are three different zigzag patterns; rounded zigzag, sharp zigzag and trimmed zigzag. The rounded zigzag is the most common while the trimmed zigzag has only been observed in some female specimens.
Vipera latastei
Left: rounded zigzag        right: trimmed zigzag
center: sharp zigzag

The number of edges or jags of the zigzag pattern (from head to vent) varies from 25 to 35 in males, the average being 31. For the females the number of edges or jags ranges from 25 to 32, the average being 30. Vipera l. gaditana also exhibits a series of rounded blotches along both flanks of the body, however, in this subspecies they tend to be more intensely marked than in the nominate form. Also present is the second row of smaller and duller blotches along both sides where the dorsals meet the ventrals.

Vipera latastei
Vipera latastei gaditana - Note the two oblique head
markings in contact with the dorsal pattern.
Head: The head of Vipera latastei gaditana is very broad and always grey in colour, regardless of the body ground colour. It barely exhibits any ornamentation, and when they are present, the two crescent moon shaped markings are usually in contact with the zigzag pattern.
Unlike the males of the nominate form, the dark triangular markings on the supralabials are usually not found in Vipera l. gaditana males. The gular region and the infralabials scales are darkly pigmented in males, somewhat lighter in females. The postocular stripe is also wider and darker in males than in females.

The horn is sharper, more prominent and has a more complex constitution in this subspecies than in the nominate form. Generally there is no trace of frontal or parietal scales.

Pholidosis:Vipera latastei gaditana has 21 rows of dorsal scales. Males have between 124 and 138 ventrals, with an average of 131,5 ventrals. Females have between 122 and 137 ventrals, with an average of 133. There are 37 to 47 paired subcaudals in males, the average being 42, and 33 to 40 paired subcaudals in females, the average being 36,5.

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