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Systematics of the Swiss asp vipers: some implications for the European Vipera aspis (Linnaeus, 1758) complex (Serpentes: Viperidae) – A tribute to Eugen Kramer

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Following the opinion expressed by Kramer in 1971, it is commonly accepted that the V. aspis complex is composed of 5 subspecies: V. a. aspis (Linnaeus, 1758), V. a. atra Meisner, 1820, V. a. francisciredi Laurenti, 1768, V. a. hugyi Schinz, 1834 and V. a. zinnikeri Kramer, 1958. However, this point of view was recently challenged and a number of subspecies were elevated to species rank.

We had the unique opportunity to study the sample employed by Kramer to revalidate the subspecies V. a. atra and V. a. francisciredi. Using Kramer's determinations, but another set of characters, we reanalysed his sample, by applying the same statistical methods (discriminant and canonical analyses), in order to determine whether observed differences among taxa were sufficiently distinctive to warrant recognition as subspecies.

The preliminary results of our morphological study allow us to admit the validity of V. a. francisciredi Laurenti, 1768, but also to question the subspecific rank of V. a. atra Meisner, 1820. These conclusions agree perfectly with the results of our previous genetic study.

Affiliations: 1: Cultural Foundation Elapsoïdea, CP 98, CH-1219 Aïre/Geneva, Switzerland;, Email:; 2: Centre de Coordination pour la Protection des Amphibiens et des Reptiles de Suisse, KARCH, 6 Passage Maximilien-de-Meuron, CH-2000 Neuchâtel, Switzerland; 3: Laboratoire de Biologie de la Conservation, Université de Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland; 4: Saury, F-74210 Lathuile, France; 5: Rue du Pré de l'Ane, F-73000 Chambéry, France; 6: Museo di Storia Naturale e del Territorio, Università di Pisa, I-56011 Calci, Italy; 7: Laboratoire de Biologie de la Conservation, Université de Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor LL57 2UW, Wales, UK, Department of Environmental Sciences, Section of Conservation Biology, University of Basel, St. JohannsVorstadt 10, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland


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