Talk:Vipera berus

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 Definition Widespread venomous viper found in Western Europe, Great Britain and eastward to Far East Asia. [d] [e]
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image = Vipera berus (Marek Szczepanek).jpg

image_width = 250px

[[Image:Hugorme.jpg|right|left|thumb|250px|''V. berus'': normal and melanistic color patterns.]]

[[Image:Viperaberus2.jpg|right|left|thumb|250px|''V. berus'']]

[[Image:Viperaberus1.jpg|right|left|thumb|250px|''V. berus'']]

[[Image:Vipera berus.jpg|right|thumb|250px|''V. berus'']]

{{Commons|Vipera berus}}

Comments from Peter Brazaitis

1) Vipera berus is a thick bodied snake relative to other species of snakes in Europe, however as compared to other species of vipers such as Bitis gabonica and Bitis Arietans it is a moderately thick bodied snake.

2)"Adults grow to 60 cm in length with an average of 55 cm. Maximum size varies per region. The largest -- over 90 cm -- are found in Sweden; specimens of 104 cm have been observed there on two occasions. In France and Great Britain, the maximum size is 80-87 cm.[2]" Is this important? The average size is important, the reference needs to be checked. If males are larger than females, and the size difference between males and females is important. Are the largest animals males or females" Were they sexed? Point is that there sexual dimorphism.

Peter has gone off now, will print out article and e-mail in comments which I will append. Nancy Sculerati 18:59, 22 April 2007 (CDT) PS- for "who is Peter Brazaitis?" see ISBN 0-8129-6790-9
Interesting fellow; he writes well, so let's hope he decides to help out! I'll add comments about body build and sexual dimorphism: with V. berus, the females are always relatively larger and heavier than the males (sexing snakes is not that difficult). As for mentioning the maximum size(s), why not? It's to give readers a clear indication of where reality stops and fantasy begins. The corresponding (in-line) references are always at the end of each sentence or paragraph. --Jaap Winius 20:08, 23 April 2007 (CDT)

He'll be making more comments, but his point about maximum size and geographic range is partly that we have to check that the same sex was compared at different portions of the range, since females are large, so if females from one area are compared to males of another (or nobody checked the sex, they just recorded a few snakes' length) that the data is meaningless. He's a cool guy, he left me a copy of "You belong in a zoo"which I am reading now, it's not only a great book- it includes the folks that I studied under years ago. Nancy Sculerati 20:17, 23 April 2007 (CDT)

It's difficult for me to be sure that the size/sex information is correct; all I can do is take Mallow, Ludwig and Nilson's word for it (the authors of the book I used as a reference for that section). However, the average size of 50-60 cm, as well as the point that the males are generally smaller than the females, also corresponds with several other books I have. --Jaap Winius 04:50, 24 April 2007 (CDT)

Well, that's what happens when you get an expert! Peter knows that books can be wrong, and he (and I) both know that authors cite each other - and so in the literature things happen like somebody once collected some snakes of a certain species in one place that were mostly female, and in another that were mostly male, and -without sexing them- decided that there were size variations when actually the variations were in the gender collected. That fact - just the sizes, nothing about gender since the animals were never sexed (nobody thought about it) -gets published and then cited, so that , over the years, 10 sources that confirm it are all citing citations of the same flawed study. Often that's not even done in a way that is obvious, unless every reference is fully read and checked in every one of the 10 sources, because the latest source cites a previous review that includes the flawed study, rather than the flawed study itself. So looking at the article you have written, statements about geographic size variations of populations are made citing ONLY a couple of maximum size specimens, that's meaningless without knowing more- at least the genders and that's only the beginning.

Let's wait to see what else he has to say. Remember please, Peter is not doubting your scholarship, frankly, he doesn't care about that - what he cares about are the snakes, and that what is said is true. Myrna Watanabe (his wife, who is now an editor at CZ) read in many books what the American alligator did in its nesting habits before she proved most of them wrong by actually observing nesting females and saw how they actively broke open the nests to care for their hatchlings (among other things). I can tell you that both are concerned with the "collector hobbyist" of snakes. Peter (as is partly detailed in his autobiographical book "You should be in a zoo") has dealt with people all over the world who keep venomous snakes despite the laws (or in some places, despite the danger - there are no laws) and has had to use his Zoo budgets to send expensive antivenin to people who were bit by their captives and then, had to endure his own keepers and himself being left without that particular antivenin being availabe while they carried out their legitimate duties of caring for venomous species. He is much more interested in the biological questions than simple description although he knows as much as anybody about the descriptions. Meanwhile - I am still fishing for snake experts, and I know of one who is a bit more interested in the descriptive stuff. So, hold on. Meanwhile, if you want to become more of a scholar, you need to move beyond books and look into original references. That can be done through large scientific libraries and Museums of Natural History, but that may not suit your own interests. PS- there is a way out, and that is, instead of writing with authority in the text, instead quote the references. Say, "According to Mallow, Ludwig and Nilson: This is true about the size", rather than "this is true about the size". Nancy Sculerati 06:07, 24 April 2007 (CDT)

It's absolutely true that books can be wrong, but if you have no other source for a particular piece of information and no reason to doubt what is stated, then I believe it is enough to include an in-line reference at the end of a sentence. On the other hand, if someone else comes along with more knowledge of the subject and good reason to disagree, then we should rephrase ("Smith (1971) reported that...", etc.), even if we don't add any more information. I understand Peter's point, though, so I'll either make some changes or remove the information in question altogether.
The biological questions are definitely more interesting than the descriptions, but in my opinion an article about, say, snake reproduction is not that useful to the average reader if there are no descriptions available of the species mentioned in the article. When I started with this project only last year, there was really nothing like it on the web. There still isn't: some taxonomic lists and a number of collections of articles on regional species, but nothing comprehensive. Eventually, I hope that CZ will have descriptions of all valid snake taxa, which will give us a base that we can build on and use to support more specialized articles on subjects such as physiology, behavior, ecology, etc. -- the kind of things Peter is interested in.
Leiden does have a university and even a natural history museum. I know the former had a herpetological section in the 1980s. I think they've since moved to another location, but it shouldn't be too difficult to find them again. Perhaps I'll pay them a visit. :-) --Jaap Winius 14:34, 26 April 2007 (CDT)

I e-mailed him your comments- I think he'll be pleased. Nancy Sculerati 15:50, 26 April 2007 (CDT)