BBC BLOGS - Gregory's First Law
« Previous | Main | Next »

Genetic diversity in adders

David Gregory | 16:09 UK time, Friday, 8 July 2011


I didn't start the day expecting to hold the tail of an adder as it was swabbed for DNA but that's what makes the job fun.

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.


  • Comment number 1.

    Obama will be just as important as M.L.K. to the Black/ minority community when by the end of his presidency. Ever since 9/11 when the planes hit the towers & it was all over the local news stations as well as the cable news shows everything started kinda falling into place as far as politics. I started watching Bill O'reilly, Hannity & Colmes, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews, Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann & recently Glenn Beck & Rachel Maddow. When Barack Obama came on to the scene with his DNC speech I was impressed, but I don't neccessarily remember thinking alot of it other than that. There might have been a couple of commentators that speculated his run, but i'm really just assuming that. I don't specifically remember anyone saying that this guy could be president. So I just forgot about it basically. Then he just popped up in 2008, I guess, & started running. Of course I remembered him from the speech, but it was still a surprise as I didn't know anything of him than the DNC speech. But as the process went on I became increasingly impressed by Barack Obama & his family. I thought his background was great. Head of The Harvard Lawyer Association. Hey, the guy is black so you can't beat that. In a white dominated society that is a great academic accomplishment, not just an entertaining one. I was also impressed by his humane & compassionate traits as far as choosing to stay in Chicago & be a community organizer to help less fortunate people instead of easily accepting high paying attorney jobs at giant powerful firms on Wallstreet. Also, he has a great sense of family structure even though his own background was not as successful. That tells me that he is educated & adapted above his environment instead of being consumed by it. & many black homes need to see that above all else. For me, Barack Obama has made the world & its needs come into focus as opposed to just myself & my own. Being raised in indonesia with family ties, for me, makes him more worldy wise compassionate & aware. Coming from an oppressed people living in an oppressed nation, but rising to the top as the leader gives him much respect & consideration all over the world. I think he is the guy to bring this whole world together more than it has ever been because of his entire spread out & well rounded background. Here's a black democratic president, one letter away from having the same name as the most wanted terrorist ever, the same name as Sadam (the middleeast president that Bush killed), with the blackest father & whitest mother, irish blood & Dick%2

  • Comment number 2.

    Did Barack Obama handle any adders when he paid us a visit recently?

    (Hope this helps marry the last comment to David's post.)


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.