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Vipera altaica TUNIYEV, NILSON & ANDRÉN, 2010

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Higher TaxaViperidae, Viperinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common Names 
SynonymVipera altaica TUNIYEV, NILSON & ANDRÉN 2010
Pelias altaica — WALLACH et al. 2014: 530
Pelias altaica — WALLACH et al. 2014: 541
Vipera altaica — ZINENKO et al. 2015 
DistributionE Kazakhstan (Altay and Saur Mountains)

Type locality: Altay, eastern Kazakhstan. 4 km N. Village Chernyaevka, at river Kalgyr (Kalgir), E. Kazakhstan (48°41'59" N, 85°2'24.6" E), 218 - 327 m elevation.  
TypesHolotype: GNM Re.ex. 6639, adult female, (Göteborg Natural History Museum). Leg. Göran Nilson 1997-06-01. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A species within the ursinii complex that differs from all other taxa in the complex by the combination of characteristics. It has a small to medium size; non-bilineate ground color; white belly; small lateral blotches and spots present; dark sutures on labials in males; dorsal zigzag band with pointed comers of windings, or with transverse bars; high number of dorsal windings; upper nasal split absent; a squarish rostral; variable loreal number; many circumoculars; upper preocular in contact with nasal; medium number of crown scales; parietals fragmented or not; nine supralabials on each side; posterior supralabials of the same size as anterior ones; fourth supralabial below orbit; ten sublabials on each side; normally four mental scales; somewhat early dorsal scale row reduction compared to renardi; 21 rows on neck and at midbody; a high ventral number; no pronounced exposed intersquamose area; a high number of subcaudals and being a foothill valleys steppe inhabitant. A low mountain species of the ursinii complex characterized by an external morphology normally evolved as typical for mountain taxa of the ursinii complex; similar to European mountain populations (ursin ii, macrops) in some characters and to renardi and Asian mountain populations (eriwanensis) in others but unique to both in combination of characters. It is special in being the smallest taxon, and having the highest number of ventrals within the entire complex; in being a lowland dweller with a color and scalation characteristics typical for mountain taxa, and in having a sharp sexual dimorphism in labial pattern and loreal number. It differs from parapatric renardi by having an earlier dorsal scale row reduction (19 - 21, mean at 90th ventral number) (21 in renardi, with mean scale reduction at 95th ventral number) and a high number of ventrals, which are whitish in color. It differs from European mountain ursinii by having a high number of supralabials. It is separated from most taxa by having partly fragmented parietals (replaced by a mean number of eight scales), banded black suture on supralabials weakly developed or absent, lateral body pattern reduced to squarish rhombic spots that are tilted, dorsal scales are pronouncedly keeled. No interparietalia. 
CommentHybridization: This species is a hybrid of V. berus and V. renardi (U. Joger, pers. comm., 7 Jan 2013).

Comparisons: V. altaica does not have the biliniate dorsal pattern typical of most steppe vipers, has a whitish belly, no suture on the supralabials and the highest number of ventrals in the complex in spite of its small size (Nilson and Andrén, 2001; Tuniyev et al., 2010). V. r. bashkirovi resembles V. altaica in pholidosis, but its lar- ger size constitutes an unusual trait for lowland V. renardi and its frequent black body coloration and high level of morphological variation exceeds that within eastern or western V. renardi and V. altaica (Garanin et al., 2004). 
Etymologynamed after the type locality. 
  • Dujsebayeva, T. N. (ed.) 2010. Short review of last changes in the checklist of amphibians and reptiles of Kazakhstan. [in Russian]. In: Dujsebayeva, T. N. (ed.) Herpetological Researches in Kazakhstan and adjacent countries, p. 37-52
  • Phelps, T. 2010. Old World Vipers. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt, 558 pp. [critical review in Sauria 33 (3): 19 and HR 43: 503]
  • Tuniyev, B.; Nilson, G. & Andrén, C. 2010. A new species of viper (Reptilia, Viperidae) from the Altay and Saur Mountains, Kazakhstan. Russ. J. Herpetol. 17 (2): 110-120 - get paper here
  • Wallach, Van; Kenneth L. Williams , Jeff Boundy 2014. Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. [type catalogue] Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, 1237 pp.
  • Zinenko, Oleksandr; Nikolaus Stümpel, Lyudmila Mazanaeva, Andrey Bakiev, Konstantin Shiryaev, Aleksey Pavlov, Tatiana Kotenko, Oleg Kukushkin, Yury Chikin, Tatiana Dujsebayeva, Göran Nilson, Nikolai L. Orlov, Sako Tuniyev, Natalia B. Ananjeva, Robert 2015. Mitochondrial phylogeny shows multiple independent ecological transitions and northern dispersion despite of Pleistocene glaciations in meadow and steppe vipers (Vipera ursinii and Vipera renardi). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 84: 85-100; doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2014.12.005 - get paper here
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