Friday, June 12, 2009

Herps of Jordan, Part 5 (The Fertile Desert)

In Jordan, most of the desert regions are vast, hot, treeless expanses. There is a place, though, called Dana Nature Preserve where cliffs rise up off the desert floor. In the winter/spring season clouds rise rapidly to pass over the cliffs, and they dump more moisture than is typical of surrounding desert regions. Unlike the wadis, the moisture comes seasonally and provides enough water for agriculture and other vegetation to grow in the area; whereas wadis, as described in the previous post, are simply fertile due to a flowing stream or river most, if not all, of the year. This post is dedicated specifically to this unique, fertile desert area, and later posts will reflect reptile life found in the more extreme desert habitats.
It is said that the oldest village in Jordan (and if I remember correctly, the oldest in the Middle East) lies next to this reserve. Here, I spent the night with my colleagues in tents on the roof of a booked hotel. We arrived at dusk, and with not much time to herp before dark, I set out to see what I could find before retiring for the evening.
A small Juniper skink, or Snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus ruepellii).
Other than a fan-footed gecko on the wall of a nearby building, I only ran into a few of these guys scurrying through the brush and leaf litter. They were surprisingly fast, and they would hold their limbs to the side and slither rapidly through underbrush like a snake.

The next morning, we set out for the reserve. We only had a couple hours there, so I made a mad effort to catch as many herps as possible before needing to leave with the group back to Amman in the North.
Of course, starred agamas were present. I tried finding other agama species, but was unsuccessful.
Another Eurasian blind snake (Typhlops vermicularis), like those found around Amman, was discovered under a stone.
It seems to be a "vermicularis", although I know it isn't the only blind snake specie in Jordan. I hope to one day discover a different specie for comparison.
Although oddly uniform in color and patternless, this gecko found in a crevice is thought to also be a Sinai fan-fingered gecko (Ptyodactylus guttatus). I welcome a second opinion.

So far from what I can gather, the only specie I had found new to me was the Juniper skink. I doubled my efforts, knowing that time here was precious, and in my desperation I ran across a few more interesting species.
A Lebanon lizard (Phoenicolacerta laevis) nervously watched me from beneath a bush.
I kept going, flipping over stones in hopes of unearthing something different. Finally, I discovered a Sinai dwarf racer (Eirenis coronelloides).
This little snake did not like being held and did not like holding still. He bit me several times on the hand, putting forth great effort to harm me, but without producing the slightest discomfort.

Then, I stumbled upon a lizard that I've seen in pet stores in the states, and I knew lived out here in Jordan, yet I had not found.
Happy to have found and caught a Schneider's skink(Eumeces schneideri) that tried to slink across the earth without being seen.
Some close-ups. A decent-sized specimen, but they grow to be even larger.
Such an attractive lizard, possessing strong jaws, a hefty build, and its tell-tale silver with orange and yellow coloration.
It just needed something to bite to release its aggression. I put it back down, and it let go and sped away. There were still so many species I wanted to encounter, but being in a group and bound by a schedule, I boarded the bus and left the reserve. More herping would have to wait until future opportunities could be found.


  1. Nice post. I enjoyed it. That Schneider's Skink was awesome. Once again I wish I could have been there. I am going herping again tomorrow morning so hopefully I find something post worthy. This will be my last herp outing in Arizona, we are moving to New Mexico on monday. Keep up the posts!

  2. Devin, every time I'm out herping, I think about how much better it would be if you were there. (I'm actually crying right now). But seriously, we catch so much cool stuff. It bugs me that my time everywhere is so limited. It's not quite like our herping trips. With each post, it gets harder and harder to find new and cool stuff to post up. I just keep seeing all the old stuff, but I'll definitely keep looking. You see the amphibian post too?

  3. yeah the amphibian post was cool too, thats crazy that there are only 3 (maybe 4) species of amphibians in the area. But it was still good stuff. keep it up man. I will try to put a post up tomorrow night. wont be much but I do have one new speice, so I will get that up for you to see. Hopefully I will be albe to find some new stuff in Albuquerque.