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Common names: meadow viper, Ursini's viper.
Vipera ursinii is a venomous viper and a very widespread species, found from southeastern France all the way to China (Xinjiang). No subspecies are currently recognized.
Adults average 40-50 cm in length, although specimens of 63-80 cm have been reported.
Found in southeastern France, eastern Austria (extinct), Hungary, central Italy, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, northern and northeastern Albania, Romania, northern Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, northwestern Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and across the Khazakstan, Kirgizia and eastern Uzbekistan steppes to China (Xinjiang). The type locality given is " ... monti dell' Abruzzo prossimi alla provincia d'Ascoli... " (mountains of Abruzzi, Ascoli Province, Italy).
This species is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with the following criteria: A1c+2c (v2.3, 1994). This indicates an observed, estimated, inferred or suspected population reduction of at least 80% over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer, based on a decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence and/or quality of habitat. For the same reason, a population reduction of at least 80% is projected or suspected to be met within the next 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer. Year assessed: 1996.
In addition, this species is listed on CITES Appendix I, which means that it is threatened with extinction if trade is not halted, and is a strictly protected species (Appendix II) under the Berne Convention.
There is high genetic diversity within samples of V. ursinii and several species may be involved. At least six subspecies may be encountered in modern literature:
- V. u. ursinii - Bonaparte, 1835
- V. u. eriwanensis - Reuss, 1933
- V. u. rakosiensis - Méhely, 1893
- V. u. renardi - Christoph, 1861
- V. u. moldavica - Nilson, Andrén & Joger, 1993
- V. u. graeca - Nilson & Andrén, 1988
Golay et al. (1993) recognize the first four, while Mallow et al. (2003) recognize the last two. However, McDiarmid et al. (1999), and thus ITIS, feel that more definitive data are needed they can do the same.
- McDiarmid RW, Campbell JA, Touré T. 1999. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, vol. 1. Herpetologists' League. 511 pp. ISBN 1-893777-00-6 (series). ISBN 1-893777-01-4 (volume).
- Mallow D, Ludwig D, Nilson G. 2003. True Vipers: Natural History and Toxinology of Old World Vipers. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida. 359 pp. ISBN 0-89464-877-2.
- Vipera ursinii (TSN 635002) at Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Accessed 5 July 2007.
- Vipera ursinii at IUCN Red List. Accessed 5 October 2006.
- 1994 Categories & Criteria (version 2.3)IUCN Red List. Accessed 5 October 2006.
- Vipera ursinii at CITES and United Nations Environment Programme / World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Accessed 8 October 2006.
- Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, Appendix II at Council of Europe. Accessed 9 October 2006.