Phylogeography of the Adder, Vipera berus

Abstract: The phylogeography of a wide ranging temperate species, the adder, Vipera berus, was investigated using several genetic tools, with special emphasis on the post-glacial colonisation pattern of Fennoscandia. The area was colonised from two directions by adder populations representing different glacial refugia. The two populations meet in three places and the main contact zone is situated in Northern Finland. The two other contact zones are the result of dispersal across the Baltic Sea to the Umeå archepelago and South-Western Finland. Asymmetrically distributed nuclear genetic variation compared to mitochondrial DNA in the northern contact zone suggests a skewed gene flow from the east to the west across the zone. This pattern might reflect differences in dispersal among sexes and lineages, or may be accounted for by a selective advantage for nuclear variation of eastern origin among Fennoscandian adders.The phylogeographic pattern for adders across the entire species range was addressed by sequencing part of the mitochondrial genome and scoring microsatellite markers. The adder can be divided into three major genetic groups. One group is confined to the Balkan peninsula harbouring the distribution range of V. b. bosniensis. A second, well differentiated group is restricted to the Southern Alps. These two areas have probably served as refugia for adders during a number of ice ages for the adders. The third group is distributed across the remainder of the species’ range, from extreme Western Europe to Pacific Russia and can be further divided into one ancestral group inhabiting the Carpathians refugial area, and three more recent groups inhabiting areas west, north and east of the Alps. The adder provides an example of a species where the Mediterranean areas are housing endemic populations, rather than the sources for post-glacial continental colonisation. Continent-wide colonisation has instead occurred from up to three cryptic northern refugia.