Monday, July 13, 2009

Herps of Jordan, Part 8 (The Petra Periphery)

Petra reveals a fascinating, fallen civilization that used to once thrive in Jordan, tucked away and hidden by the steep cliff faces and narrow gulleys. It was inhabited anciently by the Nabateans, who erected monumental architecture chiseled into the stone canyons, and they laid out an ingenious hydrological network to provide water year round to the thousands of inhabitants. Now, though, all that remains are the weathered ruins, some curious tourists, and a few hardy reptiles. I came as a tourist with my study abroad group, but I also looked for a few herps along the way.
Starred agamas (sometimes called roughtail rock agamas) seem to exist throughout the country, but the species in the southern deserts of Jordan are recognized as a separate subspecie. This one is basking on the cliff wall beside the trail.
A good variety of small- to medium-sized lizards (including a few Lebanon lizards) scurry around the trails and desert gorges. These speedy ground dwellers remind me of the whiptails (Cnemidophorus sp.) found in the US; and like the whiptails, there are several species that often have overlapping ranges and are difficult to distinguish in the wild without the use of research and fieldguides.
This specie appears distinct from the one shown below, and I've only tentatively identified it as a snake-tailed fringe-toed lizard (Acanthodactylus opheodurus).
The scaling, coloring, and patterning make me think that this one is a Bosk's fringe-toed lizard (Acanthodactylus boskianus). Some were a bit larger than these, but these sizes were rather usual.
I enlisted the help of a couple local children (and a donkey), who loved showing me the best places for finding lizards and were always excited after we caught one. (Except the donkey didn't really seem to care too much).
This juvenile (with still blue tail) was the smallest capture of the day. Either a little fringe-toed lizard (Acanthodactylus specie) or a sand racer (Mesalina specie), which also inhabits the area. Unfortunately I'm not as educated as I'd like to be on differentiating all these species, who in my mind look very similar, and for now this is the best I can do.
While clambering over ledges and looking in crevices I glimpsed a female southern fan-footed gecko with her clutch of eggs glued to the ceiling of the rock. The gecko can be seen to the right of her eggs, sitting motionless. The broken shell fragments in the back must be leftovers from previous clutches.

Traveler blogs and tourist pamphlets for Petra love to show blue lizards sitting on red rock. This specie being displayed is the Sinai agama, which I had caught previously, but not with the blue coloration. At Petra, it's easy to see both the blue color form, as well as with normal earth tones. Sorry, the photo isn't the greatest quality but it gets the point across.
Petra is an amazing place to hike around and admire ancient craftsmanship; and if alert, there are also several herps that can be seen in the process. My trip to Petra only lasted a few hours, and I didn't find any new mind-blowing species, but it was still nice to keep my herping skills sharp and keep an eye out for any herps along the way.


  1. Jeff,
    Always good to see a new post. Hey by the way I wrote you an email and havent heard back, so you should get on that. There are quite a few different types of Agamas and it is fun to see the variations. Good post keep it up.

  2. Devin, thanks for the comment. I'll write you back shortly...sorry for the delay. I'll keep posting.

  3. LOVED the eggs and the blue lizard!