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A re-evaluation of the taxonomic status of the Moldavian steppe viper based on immunological investigations, with a discussion of the hypothesis of secondary intergradation between Vipera ursinii rakosiensis and Vipera (ursinii) renardi

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The taxonomic level and phylogenetic relationship of the Moldavian steppe viper was investigated using blood serum electrophoresis, immunological comparisons of blood serum albumin and morphological comparisons. The traditional hypothesis that the Moldavian steppe viper is a secondary intergradation between Vipera (ursinii) renardi and V. ursinii rakosiensis could not be verified. Although morphologically similar (but not identical) to these two taxa, it has a closer immunological distance to the Balkan mountain subspecies, V. u. macrops and V. u. graeca. Specific antisera against serum albumins of V. u. graeca, V. u. ursinii (wettsteini) and V. u. eriwanensis were available, and the three vipers to be tested: rakosiensis, renardi and the Moldavian steppe viper branch off from different stems: rakosiensis seems close to ursinii, V. (u.) renardi appears fairly close to eriwanensis, both of which share a common stem with the rakosiensis-ursinii lineage. The Moldavian steppe viper shows high distance to both ursinii and eriwanensis, but low distance to graeca. The electrophoretic pattern show great differences from all other geographic forms tested (seven). We conclude that the Moldavian steppe viper represents a separate subspecies: Vipera ursinii moldavica ssp.n.

Affiliations: 1: University of Göteborg, Department of Zoology Box 250 59, S-400 31 Göteborg, Sweden; 2: Hessisches Landesmuseum, Zoologische Abteilung, Friedensplatz 1, D-6100 Darmstadt, Germany


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