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Vipera aspis


Male asps are generally gray in color, while the females are gray or brown. The upper part is usually marked with transverse dark brown or black bars, sometimes zig-zigs, and occasionally there is an inverted "V" on the head. There is also a sulfur yellow or orange red patch under the tip of the tail.

The head of the asp is broad, triangular, and quite distinct from the neck. It can be distinguished from the adder by its shiny yellow iris (the adder's is coppery-red) and its upturned snout.

Asps seldom grow more than 2 feet in length.


Distribution and Habitat

Asps are found from northern Spain through much of France into Switzerland and Italy.

The prefered habitat is vegetated areas or environments with at least some cover, but it has been seen as high as 9,700 feet in the Alps.


Adult asps feed feed primarily on rodents, completing their diet with lizards and small birds. Very young asps feed on earthworms and insects, while juveniles feed almost exclusively on lizards.


Mating takes place in April and May, after the males have engaged in "dance battles" over receptive females.

Eggs develop inside the female's body for 3-4 months. An average of six or seven 7-8-inch-long young are born per mating season. They will realize their first shedding shortly after birth, and begin feeding within a few days.

Other Habits and Behaviors

Each individual asp maintains a home range of a few square yards which it rarely leaves.

Asps are active day and night, retiring at irregular intervals to a hole in the earth or between rocks.

Asps hibernate in the winter, and it is fairly common for several individuals to coil together in one hibernaculum.

Outside of mating and hibernation, asps are solitary.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Reptilia
order Squamata
suborder Serpentes
family Viperidae
genus & species Vipera aspis


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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Reptiles and Amphibians >> Suborder Serpentes

This page was last updated on March 25, 2018.