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Population characteristics of the adder (Vipera berus berus) in the Northern Romanian Carpathians with emphasis on colour polymorphism: is melanism always adaptive in vipers?

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image of Animal Biology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Netherlands Journal of Zoology (Vol 18-52).

The adaptive significance of melanism and the hypotheses regarding the maintenance of colour polymorphism in snake populations have been the subject of numerous studies and great controversies over the years. The present paper aims to present the first data on population characteristics of the adder (Vipera berus berus – one of the taxa most frequently used as model organism in studies on colour polymorphism) from the Carpathian Mountains, with emphasis on the frequency of melanistic individuals and comparison of body size between the two morphs. A short review of the frequency of melanistic individuals in populations described by previous studies is also presented. Given the fact that melanistic individuals were infrequent in this population, that no significant differences were detected with regards to the body size of the two morphs, and the supporting literature, we conclude that maintenance of colour polymorphism in this population might result from non-adaptive processes, having no or very little adaptive value.

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Biology, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Carol I Boulevard 20A, Iasi 700505, Romania; 2: Faculty of Biology, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Carol I Boulevard 20A, Iasi 700505, Romania;, Email:


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