Vipera latastei (Boscá, 1878)
By Gabriel Martínez del Mármol
Taxonomy: Serpentes | Viperidae | Vipera | Vipera latastei
Vipera latastei-monticola species complex
Gallery: 0 photos.
1) Phylogenetic frame
The taxonomic status of the genus Vipera species in Morocco is uncertain. The Dwarf Atlas viper Vipera monticola was considered a subspecies of the Lataste viper Vipera latastei (Saint Girons, 1954; Sochurek, 1979), until Beerli et al. (1986) elevated it to the rank of a species due to having a smaller number of dorsal scales in the center of the body (19 while V. latastei is 21-23), smaller dimensions (less than 40 cm) and a different dorsal pattern. More recent studies doubted on the specific range of Vipera monticola (Brito et al., 2006; 2008), even considering these populations an ecotype adapted to high altitudinal ranges (Velo-Anton et al., 2012).
Hoser (2015) considered valid the species Vipera monticola and described the new species Vipera hoserae for “the Rif Mountain range and the Middle and High Atlas Mountains in Morocco”. We will follow Kaiser et al., (2013) and consider that work as invalid.
Freitas et al., (2018) included a sample of Tizi n´ Tichka in a new phylogeographical and ecological study suggesting that populations of North Africa may be considered a different species of Vipera latastei, with 3 different lineages in Morocco: 1) the Riff Mountains, Middle Atlas and Central-Eastern High Atlas that are close related to the Algerian populations; 2) The populations of Tizi n´Tichka in the extreme Western High Atlas; and 3) the most genetically different of all the North African clade, the populations of the Western High Atlas and Jebel Sirwa.
A later work of the herpetofauna of Morocco (Martínez del Mármol et al., 2019) consider all the Moroccan populations of the genus Vipera in a single species, naming it still tentatively Vipera latastei, whereas a very recent checklist of the amphibians and reptiles of Morocco considers again both species Vipera latastei and Vipera monticola for Morocco (Bouazza et al., 2021).
The several phylogenetic studies showed clearly that North African populations represent a different lineage to the Iberian one and taxonomic rules may decide if the whole North African populations will be named as a new species with several new subspecies including Vipera sp. monticola, or the available species name Vipera monticola may be proposed as species rank with several new subspecies including Vipera monticola monticola for the Eastern High Atlas populations. Pending studies on the Vipera latastei-monticola complex in North Africa, we will continue considering a single species of the genus Vipera for Morocco.
3) Ecology and habits
4) Distribution, habitat and abundance
- Bouazza A, El Mouden H, Rihane A. 2021. Checklist of amphibians and reptiles of Morocco: A taxonomic update and standard Arabic names. Herpetology Notes, 14: 1-14.
- Brito JC, Santos X, Pleguezuelos JM, Fahd S, Llorente GA, Parellada X. 2006. Morphological variability of the Lataste’s viper (Vipera latastei) and the Atlas dwarf viper (Vipera monticola): patterns of biogeographical distribution and taxonomy. Amphibia-Reptilia, 27 (2): 219-240.
- Brito JC, Santos X, Pleguezuelos JM, Sillero N. 2008. Inferring evolutionary scenarios with geostatistics and geographical information systems for the viperid snakes Vipera latastei and Vipera monticola. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 95 (4): 790-806.
- Freitas I, Fahd S, Velo-Anton G, Martínez-Freiría F. 2018. Chasing the phantom: biogeography and conservation of Vipera latastei-monticola in the Maghreb (North Africa). Amphibia-Reptilia: DOI:10.1163/15685381-17000197.
- Hoser RT. 2015. A new taxonomy for the Vipera latastei species complex (Serpentes: Viperidae). Australasian Journal of Herpetology, 30: 28-36.
- Kaiser H, Crother BI, Kelly CMR, Luiselli L, O’Shea M, Ota H, Passos P, Schleip WD, Wüster W. 2013. Best practices: In the 21st century, taxonomic decisions in Herpetology are acceptable only when supported by a body of evidence and published via Peer-Review. Herpetological Review, 44 (1): 8-23.
- Martínez del Mármol, G., Harris, D.J., Geniez, P., de Pous, P., Salvi, D. 2019. Amphibians and Reptiles of Morocco. Frankfurt, Germany, Edition Chimaira. 478 pp.
- Velo-Antón G, Godinho R, Harris J, Santos X, Martínez-Freiría F, Fahd S, Larbes S, Pleguezuelos JM, Brito JC. 2012. Deep evolutionary lineages in a Western Mediterranean snake (Vipera latastei/monticola group) and high genetic structuring in Southern Iberian populations. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 65 (3): 965-973.