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      A long-term study of a snake community in north-western Tuscany (central Italy): population structure and density patterns

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      Herpetozoa

      Pensoft Publishers

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          Abstract

          We analysed a snake species community of a Mediterranean 0.2 ha ecotonal area during a 21 year time span, monitoring two colubrid and one viperid snake species. We carried out analyses in seven years (1997, 1999, 2002, 2004–2005, 2016–2017) that had similar sampling efforts and, in the last two years of short-term monitoring, we applied a recently proposed monitoring protocol of the Italian Environment Ministry. In total, we captured 172 distinct individuals, 61 whip snakes (Hierophis viridiflavus), 26 barred grass snakes (Natrix helvetica) and 85 asp vipers (Vipera aspis). Regarding the long-term monitoring period, whip snakes were captured on average about nine times per year, grass snakes were captured four times per year and asp vipers were found 12 times per year. Captures decreased in whip snakes, while increased in grass snakes and remained constant in asp vipers. In 2016 and 2017, we captured 10 whip snakes, 19 grass snakes and 31 asp vipers. Density estimates of snake species (0.5 H. viridiflavus/ha, 0.3 N. helvetica/ha and 0.7 V. aspis/ha) differ, to a certain extent, from published results for some other areas of central, northern and western Europe, perhaps depending on the approach applied for habitat suitability estimation. The average body size between two years differed neither for whip snakes nor for grass snakes, but it decreased significantly in asp vipers.

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          Most cited references 22

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            Conservation: tactics for a constant crisis.

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              Thermal quality influences effectiveness of thermoregulation, habitat use, and behaviour in milk snakes.

              We investigated the link between thermal quality and the effectiveness of thermoregulation in milk snakes in a thermally challenging environment. We defined thermoregulatory effectiveness as the extent to which an individual maintains its body temperature (Tb) closer to the preferred range (Tset) than allowed by the thermal quality of its environment. We defined thermal quality as the magnitude of the difference between operative environmental temperatures (Te) and Tset. Because ectotherms regulate body temperatures through choice of habitat and behavioural adjustments, we also examined the link between thermoregulation, habitat use and behaviour. During 2003-2004, we located 25 individuals 890 times, and recorded their Tb. Thermal quality was lower in the spring and fall than in the summer, and was lower in forests than in open habitats. Milk snakes thermoregulated more effectively in the spring than in the summer and fall, and more effectively in the forest than in open habitats. Milk snakes had a strong preference for open habitats in all seasons, which was likely to facilitate behavioural thermoregulation. The preference for open habitats was equally strong in all seasons and, therefore, the higher effectiveness of thermoregulation was not a result of altered habitat use. Instead, milk snakes modified their behaviour and were seen basking more and moved less in the spring than in the summer.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Herpetozoa
                Herpetozoa
                Pensoft Publishers
                1013-4425
                May 22 2019
                May 22 2019
                : 32
                : 101-107
                Article
                10.3897/herpetozoa.32.e35574
                © 2019

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