Plastic vipers: influence of food intake on the size and shape of Gaboon vipers (Bitis gabonica)

Xavier Bonnet*, Richard Shine, Guy Naulleau, Christian Thiburce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Repeated measurements of captive-born Gaboon vipers Bitis gabonica from an inbred stock examined the degree to which an animal's size and shape are affected by food intake. We also used the level of asymmetry in dorsal coloration as an index for possible genetic (inbreeding?) effects. Both of these factors, and the interaction between them, affected phenotypes of the young snakes. Snakes raised with abundant food differed from their less well-fed siblings not only in size, but also in body mass relative to snout-vent length, head length relative to snout-vent length, head width relative to head length, and fang length relative to jaw length. Hence, our data show that body proportions (including the feeding apparatus) can be influenced by the environment after birth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-351
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Zoology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation
  • Bitis gabonica
  • Energy allocation
  • Growth
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Reptiles


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