Individual Growth Rates of Nikolsky’s Viper, Vipera berus nikolskii (Squamata, Viperidae)

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Abstract

Capture-mark-recapture data was used to infer growth rates of the Nikolsky’s viper, Vipera berus nikolskii (Vedmederja, Grubant et Rudaeva, 1986), in the Eastern Ukraine. We have found that growth rate is negatively correlated with age. The difference in growth rates before maturation is not significant between different sexes. Growth rates decrease rapidly after maturation in males and females, however adult males retain significantly higher average growth rates. There is large dispersion of growth rates in the group of adult females, which is caused, probably, by alteration of complete arrest of growth in the years with reproduction and more intensive growth in the years without it. Asymptotic snout-ventral length estimated after Von Bertalanffy model was 680 mm in females and 630 mm in males. Females mature after fifth and males mature after fourth hibernation. The larger females in vipers can not be the result of higher growth rates in females, but are the outcome of a combination of other factors including different maturation time and size (older and being larger), and, perhaps, longer life span due to lower mortality. Growth rates of the Nikolsky’s viper in the nature are higher than in other species in the group of small Eurasian vipers.

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