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Preliminary Data

(di Massimo Capula, Luca Luiselli, U. Agrimi, Rosario Aguilar and C. Anibaldi)

There are so many species that we know so little about. Elaphe situla, a brightly coloured, oviparous colubrid widwspread in Mediterranean Europe, is one such species. In Italy it occurs only in the southern regions, but its precise distribution is far from being acceptably know. In February 1996, an ecological study of these snakes in the Salento (province of Lecce, southern Italy) was started. The preliminary results of our investigation are presented in this talk. We observed Elaphe situla in well-managed woodlands and in suburban areas as well. However, the number of encountered individuals was usually low. Males were captured more frequently than females. These snakes were most frequently encountered in late evening or very early in the morning, often at the borders of old buildings, walls, and stonepiles. The preliminary dietary records indicate that adults feed only upon rodents (Apodemus, Mus, Microtus)and shrews (Crocidura). Juveniles also feed upon immature rodents. Although nothing is know about the natural predators of Elaphe situla, a case of predation by an adult Coluber viridiflavus was recorded. Males engaged in vigorous and cruent combats for access to female, and the winner copulated with the female. Each female laid 4-6 eggs, and the offspring were of a larger size relative to adult size than those of other Italian Elaphe.

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