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Body size, diet and reproductive ecology of Coluber hippocrepis in the Rif (Northern Morocco)

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Although it is generally assumed that the Horseshoe Whip Snake (Coluber hippocrepis) originated in northern Africa, its biology and ecology has been studied mainly in southern Europe. In this paper we report on morphology, feeding, and reproductive ecology of Coluber hippocrepis in the Rif region (northern Morocco). Males attained larger sizes than did females, but there was no body-size difference between populations separated by the Strait of Gibraltar. The species feeds exclusively on vertebrates: mammals (45%), reptiles (28%), birds (17%), and amphibians (10%). There was an ontogenetic dietary shift in terms of frequency of prey consumed and in terms of prey size; moreover, an intersexual difference in prey frequency was found. Sexual maturity was attained at 540 mm snout-vent length (SVL) in males, and 720 mm SVL in females. Males showed a vernal spermatogenic cycle. Oviposition occurred at the beginning of summer, and offspring were observed in the field during September.


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