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Characteristics and heritability analysis of head scales of the Hungarian meadow viper (Vipera ursinii rakosiensis, Méhely 1893)

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The objective of our research was to determine the heritability of head scale numbers of Vipera ursinii rakosiensis. 430 specimens (177 males and 253 females) were included in the analysis, most of which were born and raised in the Hungarian Meadow Viper Conservation Centre between 2004 and 2008. Due to the controlled breeding conditions, the dams of the offspring were known, and the sires were known in 51% of the cases. Only the ancestors of the wild caught specimens were unknown, but these animals were included as parents in the analysis. Photographic identification was used to identify and characterise the specimens, the majority over consecutive years. We counted the following scales: loreal-, circumocular-, apical-, and crown (intercanthal- and intersupraocular-) shields, as well as presence-absence data of other characteristics which are detailed further in the article. The variance and covariance components were determined via the restricted maximum likelihood method. The repeatability animal model consisted of the year of birth and the sex of the snakes as fixed effects, the dam as permanent environmental, and the animal as random effects. Heritability values varied between 0.32 and 0.70. We also report scale numbers and statistics of differences between scale numbers of sexes.

Affiliations: 1: 1Department of Evolutionary Zoology and Human Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Debrecen, P.O. Box 3, 4010 Debrecen, Hungary; 2: 2Hungarian Meadow Viper LIFE+ project, MME BirdLife Hungary, Költő str. 21, 1121 Budapest, Hungary; 3: 3Institute of Animal Sciences, Faculty of Agronomy, University of Debrecen, P.O. Box 10, 4015 Debrecen, Hungary


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