The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

 ISSN 0268-0130

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pdf 03. Repeated use of high risk nesting areas in the European whip snake, Hierophis viridiflavus


Open Access

pp. 142-150

Authors: Xavier Bonnet, Jean-Marie Ballouard, Gopal Billy & Roger Meek

Abstract: Oviparous snakes deposit their egg clutches in sites sheltered from predation and from strong thermal and hydric fluctuations. Appropriate laying sites with optimum thermal and hydric conditions are generally scarce and are not necessarily localised in the home range. Thus, many gravid females undertake extensive trips for oviposition, and many may converge at the best egg laying sites. Dispersal mortality of neonates post-hatchling is also a critical factor. Assessing the parameters involved in this intergenerational trade-off is difficult however, and no study has succeeded in embracing all of them. Here we report data indicating that gravid females of the highly mobile European whip snake, Hierophis viridiflavus exhibit nest site fidelity whereby they repeatedly deposit their eggs in cavities under sealed roads over many decades. These anthropogenic structures provide benefits of relative safety and suitable incubation conditions (due to the protective asphalted layer?), but they expose both females and neonates to high risk of road mortality. Artificial laying sites constructed at appropriate distances from busy roads, along with artificial continuous well protected pathways (e.g. dense hedges) that connect risky laying sites to safer areas, should be constructed.

Keywords: Hierophis viridiflavus, road mortality, cost of reproduction, reptiles, anthropogenic landscape, forest

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Please note that as from Volume 31 Number 1 (January 2021) on, the Herpetological Journal will be available as an online publication only - the last print edition will be Volume 30 Number 4.   

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