Lataste’s viper (Vipera latastei)

Head of Lataste's viper
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Lataste’s viper fact file

Lataste’s viper description

GenusVipera (1)

Lataste’s viper is a terrestrial, venomous and, occasionally, cannibalistic snake (3) (4). Characterized by a pointed, up-turned snout (5), this small species, like most vipers, has a triangular head and two apical pits. It has a variable body colouration, ranging from grey to dark brown, and a darker zig-zag pattern adorns the upperside, acting as a warning signal to avian predators that this species is venomous (4). A set of dark spots are also visible on the sides of the body (5).

Vipera latasti.
víbora hocicuda.
Male snout-vent length: 24 cm (2)
Female snout-vent length: 26.5 cm (2)

Lataste’s viper biology

Thought to be an ambush predator, Lataste’s viper employs a ‘sit-and-wait’ strategy to capture prey (6). Its diet comprises mainly reptiles and small mammals, although other types of prey, including arthropods, amphibians and birds, are also taken. The diet varies according to season and age (6), and may even result in occasional cannibalism during periods of low prey densities (3). Despite its small size, Lataste’s viper is considered to be one of the most aggressively defensive of all Vipera species; if threatened, it will strike repeatedly while producing a loud hiss (4).

Lataste’s viper is a viviparous snake (5), meaning females give birth to live young that have developed within the body, with each female reproducing every three years on average (2). In the Iberian Peninsula, mating was observed between autumn and spring (2), while in Morocco it was recorded in April and May, with a possible second mating season in autumn (5). The average litter size ranged from two to thirteen individuals (2).


Lataste’s viper range

This viper occurs in scattered populations spread across the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain), Morocco and Algeria. The range also once extended into Tunisia but these localized populations are now possibly extinct (1).


Lataste’s viper habitat

Lataste’s viper typically favours stony or rocky areas with scattered vegetation, such as woodland or dry scrubland, and may also be found in coastal dunes (1) (5).


Lataste’s viper status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Lataste’s viper threats

The main threats to Lataste’s viper include persecution from humans and the loss and degradation of suitable habitat, through urbanization, agriculture, and forest fires (1) (7). As a result, this species has declined in many parts of the Iberian Peninsula, particularly in the lowlands (1). Unfortunately, certain biological traits of this viper, such as a small home range size and a low dispersal rate, make it particularly poor at adapting to habitat alteration and at colonizing nearby suitable habitats, thus making it more vulnerable to extinction (7).


Lataste’s viper conservation

The species is protected in Europe under Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (also known as the Bern Convention) (8). It is also afforded protection by its presence in the Peneda-Gerês National Park in northern Portugal and in a number of other protected areas across Spain and Morocco (1) (9).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.


This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


Apical pits
Very small pits on the surface of the scales.
A very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
The act of eating the flesh of the same species.
Home range
The area occupied by an animal during routine activities, which is not actively defended.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
  2. Pleguezuelos, J.M. (2007) Reproductive ecology of Vipera latastei, in the Iberian Peninsula: Implications for the conservation of a Mediterranean viper. Zoology, 110: 9-19.
  3. Freiria, F.M., Brito, J.C. and Avia, M.L. (2006) Ophiophagy and cannibalism in Vipera latastei Boscá, 1878 (Reptilia, Viperidae). Herpetological Bulletin, 96: 26-28.
  4. Niskanen, M. and Mappes, J. (2005) Significance of the dorsal pattern of Vipera latastei gaditana against avian predators. Journal of Animal Ecology, 74(6): 1091-1101.
  5. Schleich, H.H., Kästle, W. and Kabisch, K. (1996) Amphibians and Reptiles of North Africa. Koeltz Scientific Publishers, Germany.
  6. Santos, X., Llorente, G., Pleguezuelos, J.M., Brito, J.C., Fahd, S. and Parellada, X. (2007) Variation in the diet of the Lataste’s viper Vipera latastei in the Iberian Peninsula: seasonal, sexual and size-related effects. Animal Biology, 57(1): 49-61.
  7. Santos, X., Brito, J.C., Sillero, N., Pleguezuelos, J.M., Llorente, G.A., Fahd, S. and Parellada, X.(2006) Inferring habitat-suitability areas with ecological modelling techniques and GIS: A contribution to assess the conservation status of Vipera latastei. Biological Conservation, 130: 416-425.
  8. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (March, 2010)
  9. Brito, J.C. (2003) Seasonal variation in movements, home range, and habitat use by male Vipera latastei in Northern Portugal. Journal of Herpetology, 37(1): 155-160.

Image credit

Head of Lataste's viper  
Head of Lataste's viper

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