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Wolfgang Wuster
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Posted: 24 Apr 2003 Topic: Surveying for Adders



Hmmmm... has anyone else noticed this as a pattern?

I certainly know of one site in Berkshire, where, due to inane heathland management (BTW, what's the colourful language policy on these forums? "Inane" does not go far enough towards expressing my views on the management of that heathland ;-) ) and overcrowding with people and out-of-control dogs, adders have become scarce relative to the 1980s, whereas grass snakes, which I rarely saw back then, have become a much more regular sight.

Just wondering...

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Posted: 24 Apr 2003 Topic: Grass Snake Identification & Sightings



April 20th, north of Newbury - 1 male, 1 specimen of unknown sex. Photo is of the male.



Cheers,
Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 24 Apr 2003 Topic: Common Lizard Identification & Sightings



April 18 - Bix, Oxfordshire, 1 subadult, 1 female

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 25 Apr 2003 Topic: Grass Snake Identification & Sightings



Camera: Canon EOS DX30 - an SLR. Very expesnive, but slightly dated.

Sexing: in this case, I just looked at the tailbase, which was clearly swollen - this indicates a male in most species, but I am more than willing to be corrected if someone here knows better in the case of N. natrix.

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
Senior Member
Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 28 Apr 2003 Topic: Inbreeding depression



There are some externally visible signs which often occur in inbred snake populations. These include things like scalation irregularities (such as partially fused ventral scales) as well as other deformities, such as deformed jaws (see references below).

I wholeheartedly agree with Gemma's post of 2nd and 6th March that inbreeding is likely to be a highly significant factor for the long-term outlook of the less vagile elements our herpetofauna - after all, we all know that many species are now confined to small, isolated populations, with not a snowball's chance in hell of any genetic exchange between them. Using an approach similar to that of Madsen et al. may well be the only solution if we want to retain a reasonably widespread distribution of those species that occur primarily in isolated patches (e.g., adders). In the meantime, a survey of the genetic health of a good cross-section of reptile populations in the UK would seem like a good idea...

Cheers,

Wolfgang


GEOGRAPHIC VARIATION IN SCALE AND SKELETAL ANOMALIES OF TIGER SNAKES ELAPIDAE NOTECHIS-SCUTATUS-ATER COMPLEX IN SOUTHERN AUSTRALIA. Author SCHWANER T D Copeia (4) 1990. 1168-1173.

Daltry JC, Bloxam Q, Cooper G, et al.
Five years of conserving the 'world's rarest snake', the Antiguan racer Alsophis antiguae. ORYX 35 (2): 119-127 APR 2001



Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 29 Apr 2003 Topic: Grass Snake Identification & Sightings



Lee,

This was Newbury, Berkshire, not Newborough, Anglesey ;-)

I have never seen any at all anywhere in N. Wales and certainly not on Anglesey. Apparently, some years back, one used to frequent the disused pond beind the Brambell Bldg. in bangor, though. I have heard that they are reasonably common around Porthmadog, though.

I have to say that I am more than a little skeptical about the various Biological Recording Schemes - too many people tend to confuse things, and the recording bodies themselves screw up as well. I remember sending records of slow worms and common lizards to one county recorder, and when I later went to see some more of his records, I found that the information for the two species had been transposed. Moreover, the supposed adder localities in the county that I checked out all yielded grass snakes (and generally looked likeperfect grass snake habitat), but no adders.

Go figure...

Cheers,

Wolfgang

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 30 Apr 2003 Topic: Sad stuff folks



Alan,

The adder is protected from deliberate killing under the Wildlife and Countryside Act! Moreover, anyone working in adder territory has an obligation to take reasonable precautions to avoid killing them - in other words, any adders encountered by them should be either relocated or just left alone.

If these workmen killed them deliberately, then they can be prosecuted (at least in theory...).

I would suggest that you try and get photographic documentation of any dead specimens as well as the general pattern of destruction. You could then forward this information to English Nature and/or the police. Froglife should also be able to give advice on this issue. Also, be sure to get thename of the contractors involved.

If they are deliberately and/or unnecessarily killing adders, then that happens to be offence, and they can and should be prosecuted.

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Joined: 23 Apr 2003
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Posted: 01 May 2003 Topic: Sad stuff folks



Hi Alan,

I just want to second David's comments on this one.

Heather management by excessive cutbacks etc. is all too common. While the intention may be good (restoring heathland), and may well result in some very nice heathland 10 years down the road, the needs for continuity of habitat existence by resident herps are rarely taken into account. One of my favourite sites near Newbury has been comprehensively "managed" in this manner. At Easter, I saw 8 adders in the space of a couple of hours, but all concentrated in the very few acres of mature heather remaining amongst many hectares of cut-back areas sporting no more than a couple of inches of new growth. Something tells me I won't be seeing anywhere near as many adders next year...

Since we were discussing inbreeding depression in another forum earlier, this sort of management is exactly the kind of thing that will lead to population bottlenecks that will reduce genetic diversity within these populations, even if they do recover to a higher level.

Very sad and, given how common it is, very worrying.

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 13 May 2003 Topic: This is the place for this one



Alan,

I also hope they will still be around for future generations to see. However, I rather suspect that the trade for live exotic "pets" will have a fairly minimal effect in most cases, especially for venomous species, for which the market is very limited (with some exceptions, such as highly localised but easy to collect forms). Obviously, for species collected int heir thousands for traditional Oriental medicines and food, it's a different matter.

Whether or not future generations will see Bitis parviocula and similar species will depend to a much greater extent on whether any of the habitat remains or whether everything has been poughed up to feed an explodign local population or produce cash crops for cheap purchase from your neighbourhood supermarket.

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 16 May 2003 Topic: Berus, or Ursinii?



I also agree with berus, although I can see why it looks a bit odd.

Another character that distinguishes berus from ursinii is the presence of two (rather than one) apical scales - they are the scales on top of the head which contact the top margin of the rostral. This specimen clearly has two.

The poster posted from Finland, so the animal may just be a home-caught specimen.

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 17 May 2003 Topic: Berus, or Ursinii?



If you go to the forum at kingsnake.com (URL: http://forums.kingsnake.com/forum.php?catid=87 ), someone called Janne has given the locality of the animal - it was from Finland. He/she (sorry, not sure) also posted a couple of other photos of Estonian adders - including a couple with a very weird striped pattern, as seen in some V. seoanei.

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Posted: 17 May 2003 Topic: Berus, or Ursinii?



Alan,

Estonian adders are Vipera berus berus, just like those from the rest of northern Europe and Asia. There is a paper by a Swiss/Swedish group coming out soon that shpws that they are in fact remarkably homogeneous genetically across most of their vast range.

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Joined: 23 Apr 2003
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Posted: 19 May 2003 Topic: Berus, or Ursinii?



No idea about variation in venom composition.

As far as my statement of genetic homogeneity was concerned, it did not include bosniensis or the Alpine region, where there is considerable diversity! Some authors are already treating bosniensis as a separate species, and what Tony said about the mating system would certainly support that notion!

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
Senior Member
Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 02 Jun 2003 Topic: Unwanted Grass Snakes



First, I second everyhting Gemma has written.

A few additions: the hatchlings you are seeing are much too small to eat adult frogs or newts - they will only go for tadpoles or very recently metamorphosed frogs. These suffer extremely high mortality over the winter in any case - the excess predation from the sankes will make little difference.

All amphibians have a breeding system geared towards the production of vast numbers of juveniles of which very few will survive into adulthood. Consider that, in order for a population to maintain itself, all that has to happen is for every female to produce, OVER HER LIFETIME, on average two juveniles that survive to reproduce themselves. Then think of the number of eggs laid by the average frog. There is a *huge* excess which will not survive, and whose survival is not required to ensure the continuation of the population. The baby grass snakes will make no difference.

Additionally, the juvenile grass snakes will disperse soon anyway - there is a high concentration after they hatch, or after the babies emerge from hibernation, but soon, you won't see many of them. So rest assured that they will not exterminate your amphibian populations.

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 03 Jun 2003 Topic: Todays Sightings



Hi Tony,

I saw this kind of thing in late May/early June in N. Wales some years back - lots of activity, males twitching and chasing each other and acting weird, as if the mating seaon was still in progress. All this round the hibernaculum. I rememebr thinking it was odd and verylate back then.

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 03 Jun 2003 Topic: Common Lizard Identification & Sightings



Hi Matt,

Yes, 'twas at the Warburg Reserve - and yes, it is definitely one of my favourite places for general naturalist excursions when I am down south. And it is also one of the few reserves I am familiar with where they actually seem to care about the requirements of reptiles as much as about those of other, "prettier" organisms.

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
Senior Member
Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 03 Jun 2003 Topic: Todays Sightings



Hi Lee,

I suspect we are talking about the same place...

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
Senior Member
Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 03 Jun 2003 Topic: Creepy crawlies



The small black scorpions found in Europe are all Euscorpius, and are harmless. There are yellow species (Buthus occitanus, Mesobuthus) that are more unpleasant.

The large yellow scolopenders are like Lee said - you won't die, but you won't be thinking about much else for a while.

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
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Joined: 23 Apr 2003
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Posted: 03 Jun 2003 Topic: Todays Sightings



Beats the proverbial out of me - V. berus is not supposed to do all this V. aspis-type, autumn mating/prologed sperm retention stuff - one could conceive of some specimens being a bit late (e.g., into late May/early June), but August? Either there is a lot more plasticity in adder amting cycles than anyone ever imagined, or some are just horny all year round - beats me. The only real way of knowing would be to determine the presence or otherwise of sperm in the male - not sure whether that is feasible without sacrificing the animal - Tony, any thoughts on this??

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/
Wolfgang Wuster
Senior Member
Joined: 23 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 326


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Posted: 03 Jun 2003 Topic: Serious concerns for Ash Berus



I wouldn't recommend advertising their presence. First, there may well be @*******s out there who may feel the need to whack any snake just because it's a snake, or who may feel a calling to protect innocent children and dogs.

Second, if you advertise them, you may find yourself attracting youg teenagers who will try to catch them and mess around with them for kicks or even out of genuine interest - either way, it won't benefit the adders.

A smarter move, which does however depend on the landowner being sympathetic, would be to simply fence off at least the most important heather patches (i.e., the ones with the gravid females), and claim it's for grazer exclusion or to prevent trampling of the vegetation - much less interesting for the average herp-and-thrill-seeking teenager (like you and I used to be... ;-), and thus probably more effective.

Just my thoughts...

Cheers,

Wolfgang


Wolfgang Wüster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
http://sbsweb.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/

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