Electronic versions

  • Inês Freitas
    Universidade do Porto
  • Sylvain Ursenbacher
    University of Basel
  • Konrad Mebert
    Global Biology, Waldmattstr
  • Oleksandr Zinenko
    Museum of Nature
  • Silke Schweiger
    Herpetological Collection
  • Wolfgang Wüster
  • José C. Brito
    Universidade do Porto
  • Jelka Crnobrnja-Isailović
    University of Nis
  • Bálint Halpern
    MME BirdLife Hungary
  • Soumia Fahd
    Faculté des Sciences de Tétouan
  • Xavier Santos
    Universidade do Porto
  • Juan M. Pleguezuelos
    Departamento de Zoología, Facultad de Ciencias
  • Ulrich Joger
    State Museum of Natural History Braunschweig
  • Nikolay Orlov
    Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Edvárd Mizsei
    Department of Tisza River Research
  • Olivier Lourdais
    Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé
  • Marco A. L. Zuffi
    Università di Pisa
  • Alexandru Strugariu
    Faculty of Biology, Iaşi
  • Ştefan Remus Zamfirescu
    University of Iaşi
  • Íñigo Martínez-Solano
    Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales CSIC
  • Guillermo Velo-Antón
    Universidade do Porto
  • Antigoni Kaliontzopoulou
    Universidade do Porto
  • Fernando Martínez-Freiría
    Universidade do Porto
The designation of taxonomic units has important implications for the understanding and conservation of biodiversity. Eurasian vipers are a monophyletic group of viperid snakes (Serpentes, Viperinae), currently comprising four genera (Daboia, Macrovipera, Montivipera and Vipera) and up to 40 species. Taxonomic units have been described using a wide variety of methods and criteria, and consequently, considerable controversy still surrounds the validity of some currently listed species. In order to promote a consensus- and evidence-based taxonomy of Eurasian vipers, we analysed published mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences for this group to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships among currently recognized viper species. We also compiled information on external morphology to assess their morphological distinctiveness. Phylogenetic inference based on mtDNA sequences shows contrasting levels of divergence across genera and species and identifies several instances of non-monophyly in described species. Nuclear DNA sequences show extremely low levels of genetic variation, with a widespread pattern of allele sharing among distant species, and even among genera. Revision of morphological data shows that most species designations rely on scalation traits that overlap extensively among species of the same genus. Based on our combined assessment, we recognize 15 taxa as valid species, three taxa which likely represent species complexes, 17 taxa of doubtful validity as species, and five taxa for which species status is maintained but further research is highly recommended to assess taxonomic arrangements. We stress the need to implement integrative taxonomic approaches for the recognition of evidence-based taxonomic units in Eurasian vipers.


  • integrative taxonomy, morphology, mtDNA, nuclear DNA, phylogeny, Viperidae, species delimitation, biodiversity
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-311
Number of pages27
Issue number3
Early online date17 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2020

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