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Two species of slow worm (Anguis fragilis, A. colchica) present in the Baltic region

In: Amphibia-Reptilia
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  • 1 Institute of Vertebrate Biology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, , Brno, , Czech Republic
  • | 2 National Museum, Department of Zoology, , Prague, , Czech Republic
  • | 3 Masaryk University, Department of Botany and Zoology, , Brno, , Czech Republic
  • | 4 Comenius University in Bratislava, Department of Zoology, , Bratislava, , Slovakia
  • | 5 Daugavpils University, Department of Ecology, , Daugavpils, , Latvia
  • | 6 Helsinki Zoo, , Helsinki, , Finland
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Abstract

Five European slow worms (Anguis) have mostly parapatric distributions. Two species, A. fragilis and A. colchica, are widely distributed across the western and eastern parts of the genus range. Their contact zone runs from the north-eastern Balkans, through Pannonia to northern Central Europe. In northern Poland, the contact zone has been located approximately between the North and East European Plains. Here, we present the first mitochondrial and nuclear DNA data from Finland and the coastal Baltics. We demonstrate that A. fragilis enters the East European Plains, where it is presumably distributed along the Baltic coast. Our data indicate that A. colchica is present more inland and to the north of Riga. The genetic structure suggests three independent postglacial colonization events in the Baltics (two by A. colchica). The presence of the two species, A. fragilis and A. colchica, should be considered by the conservation legislations of Lithuania, Latvia and Russia.

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