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Keywords:

  • Vipera berus;
  • melanism;
  • thermoregulation;
  • size;
  • combat;
  • predation;
  • reproductive success

In a population of adders (Vipera berus) in Southwest Sweden, melanistic males were heavier than normal coloured males of the same length. Victory in male-male sexual combats was positively related to size. Higher risk of predation in the black morph was inferred from experiments showing a high predator attack rate on models of the black morph. Even the bright colour in newly moulted basking males of the normal morph gives cryptic protection. In females, melanism probably also affects body size and risk of predation by visually searching predators. The thermoregulatory influence of black colour, the reproductive success and the maintenance of two colour morphs in the population are discussed.