Thursday, June 4, 2009

Herps of Jordan, Part 2 (The Vicinity)

I was now in Amman, and life quickly became busy with classes, homework, learning how to get around, making local friends (and trying to explain to them in Arabic why I like catching reptiles), and when time allows...herping! Many times, though, the herps can be found in and around town without going too far.
Once, I was in downtown Amman eating falafals with friends. We walked over to an area of old Roman ruins to sit down and finish our meal. Not long afterward the workers who maintain the area came over and we practiced our Arabic with them, while sitting under a fig tree and sipping some of their local lemon mint "tea". The conversation didn't get far before they were informed of my reptile fascination. One guy smiled and ran off to bring something back that he had found that morning. I was surprised and excited to see him return with a good-sized Greek tortoise that had made the ruins its home.
Adult Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca).

Then, later, I saw a curious skink popping its head in and out of a crack in an old Roman pillar. I'd put my face up to it and look in, and the skink would come right up to my nose. When I pulled my face away and tried to grab it with my hand, it would retreat back into the crevice. This was the best picture I could get of him. Again, you can click on the picture to enlarge it. I've tried to find out its specie name, but with no luck. It seems I can get information all day about the huge, or cool, or special species of the area, but a lot of the less impressive or smaller species get overlooked by websites and such...too bad.
The yellow fan-fingered gecko found in Aqaba turns out to be only one of three species of fan-fingered geckos that live in Jordan. Both of the other two make the Amman area its home, or at least their ranges seem to overlap here, and I've found both species sitting on the same boulder in late afternoon.
The Levantine fan-fingered gecko (Ptyodactylus puiseuxi) is black with white polka dots covering its body. I remember the first time I saw this specie was when I was sixteen in the Golan Heights when I was on vacation with my family.
The Sinai fan-fingered gecko (Ptyodactylus guttatus) is lighter in color and has grey-ish spots intermixed with orange-ish spots. I have also since seen this specie in areas further south of Amman, where I haven't seen the Levantine specie.

Herping close to home also allowed me to find my own little Greek tortoise, which I assume is a fairly common specie in this area (not like the rarity of the Desert tortoise in the states).
I love these little guys! I've since caught two more (one, however was a large adult), but I never tire of seeing a tortoise sheltering next to a rock or under a bush. Such a cool specie!
I love the look on this guy's face. It just looks so defeated and dejected...almost ashamed...ha! I put him back down and he waddled as fast as he could to the nearest bush. Herping is such an enjoyment--hiking around, enjoying nature, and sampling the native fauna. It's nice to know that sometimes you don't even have to be far from home to satisfy your needs.


  1. Mmmm...falafals! I like the look of the Sinai fan-fingered gecko and of course the little Greek tortoise. Oh and I got a kick out of your last paragraph. So funny...I can picture you saying it!

  2. Oh yeah and I was also going to tell you that I got a kick out of the picture of your herping group. You must really be trying to get anyone and everyone to go with you on your herping adventures.

  3. That tortoise is the cutest little thing I have ever seen!! It actually reminds me of when tortita was a baby. Did you keep him? You should bring him home so tortita can have a friend! :)

  4. Love the little tortoise! AND the black with white polka dots dude is cute too!!!