Vipera latastei latastei   Boscá, 1878.

Vipera latastei
Vipera latastei latastei, adult male - photo: Daniel Gómez
Distribution and habitat: In the Iberian Peninsula the nominate form Vipera latastei latastei occupies all the distribution area assigned to Vipera latastei with the exception of a relatively small area which comprises the western parts of Andalusia and the south of Portugal and which is occupied by the southern form Vipera latastei gaditana. The nominate form Vipera latastei latastei is also found in North Africa, specifically in the Riff mountains in Morocco. Until recently all the specimens found in the Riff mountains had been erroneously classified as Vipera latastei gaditana, but their morphology and pholidosis have proven greater affinities with the nominate form.

Vipera latastei latastei can be found between 0 to 2.500 mts (0 to 8.200 feet) a.s.l. although the average altitude where it is normally seen ranges from 900 to 1.100 mts (2.900 to 3.600 feet) a.s.l.

The habitat where it is found is quite variable; areas with a certain degree of humidity and varied vegetation like pine, oak, heather and ferns, or semiarid rocky outcrops with sparse vegetation.

Vipera latastei
Habitat of Vipera latastei latastei, Guadalajara
photo: Fernando Arranz

Like the rest of the European vipers Vipera latastei latastei 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.

Vipera latastei
Vipera latastei latastei camouflaged between ferns
photo: Juan Timms

Vipera latastei
Tail of Vipera latastei latastei from Teruel
photo: Juan Timms

Colouration: The colouration of Vipera latastei latastei can be quite variable, even between specimens of a single population, however, the most common colouration is grey or brownish grey, and it tends to be similar to the environment´s ground colour, so that the snake blends in with the ground when it is exposed.

The tip of the tail can be either black or yellow. Even siblings of the same offspring can have different tail colouration. However, the populations of Vipera latastei latastei from Teruel are an exceptional case; all the specimens invariably have a jet black tail tip.

Vipera latastei
left: sharp zigzag         right: blunt zigzag
center: rounded zigzag

Dorsal pattern: The vertebral stripe or zigzag can be also quite variable; in the intensity of colouration, in the shape and in the number of edges or jags. There are basically three different zigzag patterns; sharp zigzag, rounded zigzag and blunt zigzag (see illustration).

Specimens from the same population tend to exhibit the same zigzag pattern; for instance, specimens from the eastern part of Castilla- Leon usually exhibit the blunt zigzag pattern, specimens from south and east Andalusia exhibit the sharp zigzag pattern and specimens from the Central Mountains exhibit the rounded zigzag pattern.

The vertebral stripe or zigzag is quite contrasted against the ground colour, for it is bordered in black, which is more intense in the outside jags. The inside of the zigzag is a dark shade of grey or brown. The number of edges or jags of the zigzag pattern (from head to vent) varies between 29 and 48, with an average of 38 for both sexes.

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