Flanders Moss NNR
Our adders at Flanders Moss will now have finished the mating process and will be moving further out onto the moss to areas where they will feed. And they will be shedding their skin or slough as a shed skin is called. Adders can shed their skin up to 4 times a year, the males doing their first shed in mid to late April whereas females might not loose their first skin of the year until mid to late May.
Adders shed their skin to enable them to grow, and also to get rid of any parasites that are living on the outside of them. An adders skin doesn’t stretch or increase in area so to grow they develop a new skin under the old one and then old outer one comes loose and the adder gets out of it by scrapping its body along vegetation. It means that sometimes you can find a whole skin of an adder lying on the moss surface looking a bit like a discarded sock.
Not only are these beautiful to look at, as you can see the different types of scales on the head, body, even eyes, but it is also invaluable for science. In the UK adder populations are getting increasingly isolated by habitat destruction and by looking at the genebank created by collecting and preserving adder skins scientists can look at genetic impoverishment and viability of adders in a certain area. They can also check for presence of diseases and other health issues that might be in an adder population. The adder genebank already has a few sloughs from Flanders Moss so the Mosses adders are represented.
So if you are lucky enough to find an adder slough you too can can help by sending it to the adder genebank set up by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation see here. The details of how to prepare an adder slough and where to send it can be found on the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation website here