Sunday, April 22, 2007

Reptiles of Iraq

We have seen a variety of reptiles since being in country. Fortunately, the only venomous snake we've run into was run over by our vehicle and it was HUGE! Other than that, nothing really significant, which is good.

Rough Tailed Gecko

This little fellow below, who is known as either the Bent-toed gecko, the Keeled Rock Gecko, the Rough-scaled gecko, the Rough-tailed gecko (Gymnodactylus Scaber) or the Rough thin-toed gecko, depending upon the source one consults.

Geckos (Gekkonidae) are small to moderately large found in warm climates throughout the world. Geckos are unique among lizards in their vocalizations, making chirping sounds in social interactions with other geckos. Geckos are unusual in other respects as well.

Geckos have no eyelids and instead have a transparent membrane which they lick to clean. A few species have the ability to shoot an irritating liquid out of the end of its tail. They are also known to have the ability to change the color of their skins although they have not mastered it like the chameleons and can only go pale. Many species have specialized toe pads that enable them to climb smooth vertical surfaces and even cross indoor ceilings with ease.

These antics are well-known to people who live in warm regions of the world where several species of geckos make their home inside human habitations. These species (for example the House gecko) become part of the indoor menagerie and are seldom really discouraged because they feed on insect pests.

Caspian Turtle

Thye Caspian Turtle (Mauremys caspica)is a freshwater turtle of the genus Mauremys and are widely distributed in Asia and are also found in many areas bordering the Mediterranean. Mauremys encompasses four species, of which the best known are the Mediterranean species Mauremys caspica (the Caspian turtle) and Mauremys leprosa (the Spanish turtle).

Mauremys caspica and M. leprosa occur in a wide variety of habitats from fast flowing mountain streams to ponds and drainage ditches. In Spain, Greece and Turkey I have regularly found good populations of Mauremys in deep rock-pools adjacent to mountain streams. In Morocco and Tunisia the most common habitats include seasonal ponds, lakes, irrigation ditches and brackish coastal lagoons.

So, what is the difference between a turtle, a tortoise and a terrapin? A tortoise is a turtle, but not all turtles are tortoises, at least in current usage. Tortoises are generally turtles with high domed shells and elephantine legs. Totally terrestrial, they do not swim well and are likely to drown in deep water. Water turtles are turtles with generally flattened generally circular shells and webbed flipper-feet for swimming. Some water turtles never leave that element. Terrapins are generally water turtles that frequent swampy areas and estuaries.

The Sandfish (Scincus scincus) is a species of skink that burrows into the sand. It has stripes on its back. This is rarely seen in pet stores. It is called a sandfish because if its ability to move through sand very fast, as if it were swimming.

Scientists found out in 2000 that its skin has lower friction than polished steel, glass, or nylon, and are trying to find bionic applications for this Natural History: The sandfish is so named because of its ability to swim in soft desert sands. The skinks are typically buried, but surface to feed. They feel vibrations of insects and other small creatures walking on the surface, then ambush prey from below (much like the sand worms in the novel Dune). These lizards lie in very hot deserts and are active for limited periods in the sunlight.

Lebetine Viper

Lebetine viper (Vipera lebetina) is a large snake, with females reaching 214 cm in length and males growing to a similar size. However, sizes vary between different populations, with M. L. lebetina being somewhat smaller. The head is broad, triangular and distinct from the neck. The snout is rounded and blunt when viewed from above, which is why it is also called the blunt-nosed viper. The nasal and nasorostral scales are almost completely fused into a single plate, although some variation occurs.

The dorsal scales are strongly keeled, except for those bordering the ventrals. M. L. lebetina usually has 146-163 ventral scales. The anal scale is single.
The color pattern is less varied than one might expect from a species that is so widely distributed. The head is normally uniformly colored, although it can occasionally be marked with a dark V-shape. Dorsally, the ground color for the body can be gray, brown, beige, pinkish, olive or khaki. The pattern, if present, is darker, can be gray, bluish, rust or brown in color, and may consist of a mid dorsal row or double row of large spots. When two rows are present, the spots may alternate or oppose, which can produce anything from a saddled to a continuous zigzag pattern. The spots are usually brown, dark gray or black, but are sometimes red, brick, yellow or olive in color.

Lebetine viper

Saw-Scaled Viper

The Saw-Scaled Viper (Echis carinatus) is a venomous viper species found in parts of the Middle East and Central Asia, and especially the Indian subcontinent. It is the smallest of the Big Four dangerous snakes of India. Five subspecies are currently recognized, including the typical form described here.

Size ranges between 38 and 80 cm in length, but usually no more than 60 cm.
The color-pattern consists of a pale buff, grayish, reddish, olive or pale brown ground color, overlaid mid dorsally with a series of variably colored, but mostly whitish spots, edged with dark brown, and separated by lighter interblotch patches. A series of white bows run dorsolaterally. The top of the head has a whitish cruciform or trident pattern and there is a faint stripe running from the eye to the angle of the jaw. The belly is whitish to pinkish, uniform in color or with brown dots that are either faint or distinct.


Cobras are locally common snakes that may otherwise be absent in nearby areas. They are found in all habitats, from sandy areas where they are principally nocturnal, to river edges and rocky valleys, where they may be active by day. Cobras feed on small mammals, lizards, and other snakes, including vipers. The venom is principally neurotoxic, and distress stems from respiratory and cardiac inhibition. Even the smallest cobras may deliver a potentially fatal bite.

Traits of cobras include smooth, shiny scales; round pupils; a cluster of large distinct scales on top of the head; head not triangular, and only slightly broader in the rear than the neck; and an extensible neck hood.

The cobras of central Iraq are as follows:

Desert Blacksnake

Desert blacksnake (Walterinnesia aegyptia): grows to 52 inches, but typically 3-4 feet. The body is uniformly black or dark brown with no pattern; the belly bluish-gray on the belly. Juveniles from Iran and Iraq are dark with pink cross bands. The effect of the venom on humans is not known, but presumed to be dangerous. This is the commonest and most widespread cobra in the Middle East.

Arabian cobra

Arabian cobra (Naja haje arabica): grows to 72 inches (6 feet), making it the largest venomous snake of the Middle East. This snake is considered to be a subspecies of the Egyptian cobra (Naja haje haje), whose antivenin should be administered in case of bite. Adults are brown, tan, coppery, or black, with a yellow belly. Though not native to Iraq, it is sometimes imported for snake fakir shows. Bites are always to be considered extremely dangerous.


herper said...

going this year hopefully to catch them thx for this really helped

herper said...

hoping to go to iraq this year hopefuly to catch some stuff so thx for this really help