The history of herpetological research in Romania

3 July 2014

The first scientific relatation on the snake fauna in Romania was made by Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli (1658-1730) who presented in detail, within a monographic work published in 1744 the spawning of a European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) found on the Danube. However the first research activities on the herpetological fauna in Romania were performed and published in the 19th century by researchers in the Austro-Hungarian Empire [42].

Emerich (Imre) Frivaldszky von Frivald (1799-1870) was the first researcher to study the herpetological fauna in Romania, mostly in Transylvania, publishing a small monography in 1823 entitled „Monographia Serpentum Hungariae”. Several species of reptiles in found in Transylvania are noted in this work [19].

During the second part of the 19th century naturalist Eduard Albert Bielz (1827-1898) published a series of works which contained important data on the places where most of the reptiles in Transylvania could be found [4; 5].

The detailed research performed by Lajos Mehely (1862-1952), which exceed the descriptive pattern can be considered an important step for the study of the herpetological fauna in Romania. He was the first to note the existence of hybrids amongst the species of Bombina bombina and B. variegata on the territory of Transylvania and he also performed research on brown frogs and on the meadow viper (Vipera ursinii rakosinensis) [44; 45; 46].

The bases of herpetological research in Romania were established by zoologist Constantin Kirițescu (1876-1965) together with the publication of his work ’’Research on the herpetological fauna in Romania’’ in which he made an inventory of the reptile and amphibian species in Romania, drafting their zoogeography and insisting on certain systematics issues. He was the first one to note the presence of the Eryx jaculus species on the territory of Romania (1903) and he also described a new subspecies of newt which subsequently was to become a new species (Triturus dobrogicus) [39; 40; 41].Kirițescu-Cercetări-herpetologiceRobert Mertens (1894-1975) studied some samples personally gathered in Romania and interpreted them by means of modern systematics. His research comprise interesting indications which could be subsequently valorized by other herpetologists [43].

Raul Calinescu (1901-1970) was the first to introduce the Temara nomenclature after the list of Martens and Muller. He also made up thorough distribution maps for the reptiles in Romania and he made the zoogeographical and ecological analysis of the herpetological fauna publishing his work ’’Handbook for collecting and determining amphibians and reptiles in Romania’’ in the year 1929. Furthermore he also described some new species (Salamandra salamandra carpatica, Bombina bombina danubialis and Testudo ibera racovitzai), the validity of which was not subsequently accepted [6; 7].Călinescu-Manual -Amfibieni&ReptileDuring the following years the publications of Mihai Bacescu (1908-1999) revealed that harmonious systematics and ecological research on reptiles and amphibians in Romania were carried out. He was the first to report the presence of Pelobates syriacus balcanicus subspecies in Romania. He had an important contribution to the knowledge of herpetological fauna in Dobrogea and Moldova. He was also the first to report the presence of the common European adder (Vipera berus) and of the meadow viper (Vipera ursinii) in the region of Moldova [1; 2; 3].

Ion Eduard Fuhn (1916-1987) was the first herpetologist to discuss about the importance of preserving the herpetological fauna in Romania. He published over 80 scientific works regarding the biogeography, systematics, monography, biology and ecology of the reptiles and amphibians in Romania. He described several new species, most of which are presently accepted: Triturus vulgaris ampelensis, Ablepharus kitaibelli stepaneki, Lacerta trilineata dobrogica and Lacerta agilis euxinica. The two volumes ’’Amphibia’’(1960) and ’’Reptilia’’(1961) from the series ’’The fauna of the Peolple’s Republic of Romania’’ are the most important and complex herpetological monographies in Romania, up to this day. The second volume was published in collaboration with Stefan Vancea.Fuhn-Amfibia&ReptiliaWith this book “Frogs, snakes, lizards“, Ion E. Fuhn made the first attempt to make herpetological fauna popular and to draw the attention of the public regarding the need to preserve it [20; 21; 22].Fuhn-Broaște-șerpi-sopîrleStefan Vancea (1910-1997) published numerous articles together with Fuhn regarding the distribution and biology of the herpetological fauna in Romania, particularly the one in Moldova. His most important contribution (besides the volume ’’Reptilia’’ published together with Ion E Fuhn) is probably represented by the study on the morphological variability of the common adder (Vipera berus) in the central part of the Moldavian plateau, the Oriental Carpathians and Transylvania [70].

Constantin Sova studied the herpetological fauna in Moldova focusing mainly on the study of newts. He was the first to show the influence of altitude and of the population density on the morphology and variability of newts [69].

Herpetologist and ecologist Bogdan Stugren (1928-1993) studied the distribution of reptiles in Transylvania and Dobrogea. He published many works regarding the systematics, distribution, evolution and ecology of amphibians in Romania. The most important studies were probably the ones on the genus Bombina  and on the species Rana arvalis [67; 68].

After 1990 herpetologist Ioan Ghira brings important contributions to the study of herpetological fauna in Romania, especially to the study of the long-nosed viper (Vipera ammodytes), contributing with new information regarding the distribution, morphology, biology and ecology of this species. Furthermore he reports for the first time the existence of some suposingly hybrid populations between the long-nosed viper (Vipera ammodytes ammodytes) and the common viper (Vipera berus berus) [29; 30; 31; 32].

Herpetologist Dan Cogalniceanu studied mainly amphibians in Romania contributing to actual knowledge regarding the distribution, biology, ecology, biogeography and preservation thereof. In 1997 he published a monography entitled ’’Methods and techniques of studying the ecology of amphibians’’ and in 2002 he published a ’’Field guide for determining amphibians in Romania’’, a synthesis of the information gathered up to that moment [8; 9; 10]. In 2013 he published two important works regarding the distribution of amphibians and reptiles in Romania together with his coworkers [11; 12].

Starting with the year 2000, important contributions regarding the herpetological fauna in Romania and the impact of humans on it are brought by several groups of herpetologists from different univerisites in the country: Oradea, Cluj (ex.: Covaciu-Marcov et al. 2006 a, b, 2007, 2008, 2009; Covaciu-Marcov & David 2010; Sas et al. 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008); Sighișoara (Hartel et al. 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 a, b); Brașov (ex.: Sos 2007, 2011; Sos et al. 2008); Iași, Piatra-Neamț, Suceava, Bacău (ex.: Gherghel & Ile 2006; Gherghel et al. 2007 a, b, 2008; Gherghel & Strugariu 2007, 2008; Strugariu et al. 2006 a, b, 2007, 2008 a, b, c, 2009, 2011; Strugariu & Gherghel 2007, 2008; Zamfirescu et al. 2008, 2009); București (ex.: Iftime, 2005; Sahlean et al. 2008, 2010, Rozylowicz 2008). A great part of this information has been neglected from the moment the monographic volumes of the Fauna of Romania – Fuhn 1960 and Fuhn & Vancea 1961).

Almost 1000 scientific works on amphibians and reptiles in Romania have been published since the first notes regarding the herpetological fauna in Romania were dated back in the 18th century. Thus, a constant increase in the number of scientific works on the subject can be noticed up to this date. Three important periods in which scientific literature on the subject has suffered a decrease can also be noticed within this time lapse, meaning: 1910-1919, 1940-1949, 1980-1989. The first two periods correspond to the two World Wars and can be attributed to the major international issues. The third period corresponds to the fall of the comunist regime in Eastern Europe and to the end of the comunist regime in Romania. After 1990, the number of scientific articles in the field of herpetological fauna increased again.

This increase corresponds to the development of the study technologies regarding herpetological fauna. The best example for this is the development of the telemetric technologies, the study domains and the appariton of new interest domains (ecology, biogeography, evolutionism) and also the development of the molecular methods of study (molecular biology, genetics) which could complete the amount of information on phylogenesis, phylogeography and evolution of herpetological fauna.

However, large gaps can be observed at this moment, especially concerning the biology, ecology, phylogeography of the species of amphibians and reptiles in Romania. There are very few studies, both historical and actual, in these important domains, studies which would primarily contribute to the long-lasting and efficient conservation of the herpetological fauna in our country.


1. Băcescu M., (1933): Vipera berus în Moldova şi Basarabia. Rev. Ştiinţ. “V. Adamachi”, Iaşi, 9:3-13.

2. Băcescu M., (1937): Cîteva interesante date herpetologice pentru fauna Romîniei şi unele propuneri de rezervaţii naturale în legătură cu ele. Rev. Ştiinţ. “V Adamachi”, Iaşi 23: 122-128.

3. Băcescu M., (1941): Sur la présence de Vipera ursinii ursinii en Moldavie et quelques observations sur la Biologie de Pelobates fuscus en Roumanie. Extr. Compt. Rend. Séanc. Acad. Sci. Roum., 1-2:63-69.

4. Bielz E. A. (1856): Die Fauna der Wierbeltiere Siebenbürgens, eine szstematische Aufzählung und Bechreibung der in Siebenbürgen vorkommenden Säugethiere, Vögel, Amphibien und Fische. Filtsch, Hermannstadt.

5. Bielz E. A. (1888): Die Fauna der Wierbeltiere Siebenbürgens nach ihrem jetzigen Bestande. Verh. Mitt. Siebenb. Ver. Hermannstadt, 38: 15 − 120.

6. Călinescu R., (1929): Manual pentru colectarea și determinarea amphibiilor și reptilelor din România, Editura Casa Școalelor, București.

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8. Cogălniceanu D., (1991): A preliminary report on the geographical distribution of amphibians in Romania. Revue Romaine de Biologie – Biologie Animale 36: 1-36.

9. Cogălniceanu D., (1997): Practicum de studiu a ecologiei amfibienilor – metode şi tehnici în studiul ecologiei amfibienilor. Ed. Universităţii din Bucureşti.

10. Cogălniceanu D., Aioanei F., Bogdan M., (2000): Amfibienii din România. Determinator. Ed. Ars Docendi, Bucureşti.

11. Cogălniceanu D., Szekely P., Samoilă C., Iosif R., Tudor M., Plăiaşu R., Stănescu F., Rozylowicz L., (2013): Diversity and distribution of amphibians in Romania, Zookeys 296:25-57.

12. Cogălniceanu D., Rozylowicz L., Székely P., Samoilă C., Stănescu F., Tudor M., Székely D., Iosif R., (2013): Diversity and distribution of reptiles in Romania, ZooKeys 341: 49-76.

13. Covaciu–Marcov S. D., Ghira I., Cicort – Lucaciu A. Şt., Sas I., Strugariu A., Bogdan H. V., (2006 a): Contributions to knowledge regarding the geographical distribution of the herpetofauna of Dobrudja, Romania. North-Western Journal of Zoology 2 (2): 88-125.

14. Covaciu-Marcov S.D., Sas I., Kiss A., Bogdan H., Cicort-Lucaciu A.Şt., (2006 b): The herpetofauna from the Teuz River hydrographic basin (Arad County, Romania). N. Wes. J. .Zool. 2(1): 27-38.

15. Covaciu-Marcov S.D., Cicort-Lucaciu A.Şt., Ile R.D., Pascondea A., Vatmaniuc R., (2007): Contributions to the study of the geographical distribution of the herpetofauna from the North-East area of Arad County in Romania. Herpetologica Romanica 1.

16. Covaciu-Marcov S.D., Cicort-Lucaciu A.Ș., Sas I., Strugariu A., Cacuci P., Gherghel I., (2008): Contributions to the knowledge regarding the composition and geographical distribution of the herpetofauna from Northern Moldavia (Suceava and Botoşani Counties, Romania). North-Western Journal of Zoology 4 (1): S25-S47.

17. Covaciu-Marcov S.D., Cicort-Lucaciu A.Ş., Dobre F., Ferenţi S., Birceanu M., Mihuţ R., Strugariu A., (2009): The herpetofauna of the Jiului Gorge National Park, Romania. North-Western Journal of Zoology 5 (Supplement 1). Ed. Universităţii din Oradea, Oradea.

18. Covaciu-Marcov S.D., David A., (2010): Dolichophis caspius (Serpentes: Colubridae) in Romania: New distribution records from the northern limit of its range. Turkish Journal of Zoology 34: 119-121.

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23. Gherghel I., Ile R.D., (2006): Contributions to the distribution of Amphibia, Caudata in Neamț County, Romania. North-Western Journal of Zoology 2/1:44-46.

24. Gherghel I., Strugariu A., (2007): Antropogenic impact upon the herpetofauna and the lake system from the future natural reserve from “Făurei Swamp” (Neamţ County, Romania). Analele Ştiinţifice ale Univ. “Al. I. Cuza” Iaşi, s. Biologie animală 53: 175-179.

25. Gherghel I., Strugariu A., (2008): A preliminary report on the composition and distribution of the herpetofauna in the Lower Prut River Basin (România). North-Western Journal of Zoology 4: 49-69.

26. Gherghel I., Strugariu A., Ghiurca D., Roșu S., Huțuleac-Volosciuc M.V., (2007 a): The composition and distribution of the herpetofauna from the Valea Neagra river basin (Neamţ County, Romania). North-Western Journal of Zoology 1: 70-76.

27. Gherghel I., Strugariu A., Glavan T., (2007 b): Eremias arguta deserti (Reptilia: Lacertidae): is not extinct from Romanian Moldavia. North-Western Journal of Zoology 3: 115-120.

28. Gherghel I., Strugariu A., Ghiurcă D., Cicort-Lucaciu A.Ș., (2008): The herpetofaunã from the Bistriţa river basin (Romania): geographical distribution. North-Western Journal of Zoology 4 (1): S71-S103.

29. Ghira I., (1989): Herpetofauna zonei Mihăileni (Judeţul Hunedoara). Sargetia, Acta Mus. Devensis, 20(1986-1987): 737-739.

30. Ghira I., (1994): New records of two romanian viper species (Vipera ammodytes ammodytes and Vipera berus berus) in Hunedoara, Alba, and Arad counties. Sargetia, Acta Mus. Devensis Ser.Sci. Nat., 16: 154 − 158.

31. Ghira I., (1998): Ecology ethology and geographical distribution on the nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes ammodytes) in Romania. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca.

32. Ghira I., (2007): Rediscovery of Vipera ursinii rakosiensis in Transylvania. Herpetologica Romanica 1: 77-71.

33. Hartel T., Sz. Nemes, Cogalniceanu D., Öllerer K., Schweiger O., Demeter L., Moga C. I., (2007): The effect of fish and aquatic habitat complexity on amphibians. Hydrobiologia, 583, pp. 173-182.

34. Hartel T., Moga C. I., Öllerer K., Sas I., Demeter L., Rusti D., Balog A., (2008): A proposal towards the incorporation of spatial heterogeneity into animal distribution studies in Romanian landscapes. North-West. J. Zool. 4,173-188.

35. Hartel T., Moga C.I., Őllerer K., Puky M., (2009): Spatial and temporal distribution of amphibian road mortality with a Rana dalmatina and Bufo bufo predominance along the middle section of the Târnava Mare basin, Romania. North-Western Journal of Zoology 5: Art.#051114, pp.130-141.

36. Hartel T., Ollerer K., Cogălniceanu D., Nemes Sz., Moga C.I., Demeter L., (2010 a): Using a habitat based approach in mapping amphibian distribution in Romania: study case of the Saxon cultural landscape in the Tarnava Mare basin. Italian Journal of Zoology. doi:10.1080/11250000802684641

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48. Sahlean T.C., Strugariu Al., Zamfirescu S.R., Gherghel I., Pavel A., Puscasu C.M., (2008): A herpetological hotspot in peril: Anthropogenic impact upon the amphibian and reptile populations from the Băile Herculane tourist resort, Romania. Herpetologica Romanica 2: 37-46;

49. Sahlean T.C., Mester L.E., Crăciun N., (2010): First distribution record for the large whip snake (Dolichophis caspius Gmelin, 1789) in the county of Teleorman (Islaz, Romania). Biharean Biologist 4/2:181-183.

50. Sas I., Covaciu-Marcov S.D., Pop M., Ile R.D., Szeibel N., Duma Cr., (2005): About a closed hybrid population between Bombina bombina and Bombina variegata from Oradea (Bihor county, Romania), North-Western J. Zool. 1: 41-60.

51. Sas I., Covaciu-Marcov S.D., Kovacs E.H., Radu N.R., Toth A., Popa A. (2006): The populations of Rana arvalis Nills. 1842 from the Ier Valley (The Western Plains, Romania): present and future. North-Western Journal of Zoology 2 (1): 1-16.

52. Sas I., Kovács É.H. , Covaciu-Marcov S.D., Strugariu A., Covaci R., Ferenţi S., (2007): Food habits of a Pool frog Pelophylax lessonae – Edible frog Pelophylax kl. esculentus population from North- Western Romania, Biota 8/1-2:71-78.

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64. Strugariu A., Zamfirescu Şt.R., Nicoară A., Gherghel I., Sas I., Puşcaşu M.C., Bugeac T., (2008 c): Preliminary data regarding the distribution and status of the herpetofauna in Iaşi County (Romania). North-Western Journal of Zoology 4 (1): S1-S23.

65. Strugariu Al., Gherghel I., Nicoară A., Huţuleac-Volosciuc M. V., Moraru V., Mizeruş A., (2009): A rapid survey of the herpetological fauna from Vaslui Country (Romania) with the first record of the slow-worm (Anguis fragilis) in the region. Herpetologica Romanica, Bulletin of The Romanian Herpetological Society, Vol. 3, pp. 25-30.

66. Strugariu Al., Zamfirescu S., Gherghel I., Sahlean T., Moraru V., Zamfirescu O., (2011): A preliminary study on population characteristics and ecology of the critically endangered meadow viper (Vipera ursinii) in the Romanian Danube Delta, Biologia, 66/1:175-180.

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71. Zamfirescu, Ș.R., Zamfirescu, O., Popescu, I. E., Ion, C., Strugariu, A. (2008): Vipera de stepă (Vipera ursinii moldavica) și habitatele sale din Moldova (Romania). Ed. Univ. „Al.I.Cuza” Iași, 141 pp.

72. Zamfirescu, Ș.R., Zamfirescu, O., Popescu, I.E., Ion, C. (2009): Preliminary data on the population characteristics of Vipera ursinii moldavica from “Dealul lui Dumnezeu” (Iaşi County, Romania) with notes on conservation. North-Western Journal of Zoology. Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 85-96.


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