Genetic diversity in adders
It's all part of a nationwide study by Herefordshire snake expert, Nigel Hand. We've reported in the past on his work using radio-tracking on adders and the DNA work grew out of that.
One you trap and swab your snake the DNA samples are sent to London Zoo for genetic analysis. The worry is that in some parts of the country there are so few adders close relatives are interbreeding and this is leading to abnormalities such as missing eyes and kinked spines.
One of the reasons for this interbreeding is small populations of animals that are isolated from other snakes. That's because adder territory is being carved up into small islands of land with roads and broken tree lines creating artifical boundaries. There's no where else for the snakes to go.
The results of this study will be revealed in the autumn, but already we're starting to learn more about our adders. It's very early days but it seems heathland adders are smaller than their hillside dwelling counterparts. Perhaps because heathland adders live on smaller lizards while the others enjoy larger, juicy rodents.
This was the closest I've ever been to a wild adder, all surperivsed by an expert of course, and as ever I am amazed by just how beautiful they are. Many people do fear running across them of course but in the unlikely event you do see one just leave it alone and they'll return the favour.