Friday, May 13, 2005

I received a great picture from Mark, an Army contractor up in Mosul. The picture shows a water snake (probably Natrix tesselata) eating a fish in a small pond on his base. Also in the picture is a frog (I'd guess it is a Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda) ) .



Another Marine serving in Iraq posted a picture of a small ratsnake (he thinks it is Coluber jugularis).

More interesting pictures of Iraqi herps can be found on the Armed Forces Pest Management Board Site .

One of the most interesting to me is the legless Zarudnyi's worm lizard (Diplometopon zarudnyi). These are fantastic purple and black looking beasts that burrow in the sand. This is one of a suborder of legless lizards called Amphisbaenia (one weird Mexican group (Genus Bipes) actually has two front legs).

I found an interesting account from an Air Force Sergeant near Um Qasr in southern Iraq.

The photos were taken May 28, 2004 around 11 pm in the vicinity of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq. Staff Sargent Fiddler described the behavior as follows:

"Last night I found two worm lizards while I was doing my rounds. I believe they were mating as you can see by the pictures. However I am not sure. ... When the larger of the two was done doing whatever it was it was doing, it released the smaller one. However they were facing each other 'head-to-toe' in the photos. Instead of them grasping each other by what I thought was there genitalia, the larger ones jaw was grasping the bottom portion of the smaller one. And on a few photos, you can see where the last few centimeters of the smaller lizard appeared to be sunken in a bit along the spine, almost like the larger one was sucking fluids from it." - here's a link to the series of pictures - you need to click on the ADDITIONAL IMAGES button to see the wrestling worm lizard pictures.

This particular species lives in several countries in the middle east including Iraq and burrows in the ground in areas including dunes and date palm groves.

Here's some other Iraqi critters found on the AFPMB site. (The links were too deep and weren't working so I copied them over. Larger images are available at the above site.

Description:
Spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastix microlepis) caught and released by MSgt Mike Hartsfield at an undisclosed location in support of Iraqi Freedom.



Description:
Spiny Tailed Lizard, photo taken in KuwaitPhotographer: Capt Mark Pomerinke


Description:
Pseudocerastes persicus persicus (Persian Sand Viper), This snake was caught in Freedom Air Force Base Kirkuk,Iraq. Identification was made by Dr. Chad McHugh entomologist (Brooks AFB). Picture taken by Lt. Col. Dwayne Knott.


Description:
Eirenus modestus (Dwarf Snake). This snake was caught in Freedom Air Force base Kirkuk,Iraq. Identification was made by Dr. Chad McHugh entomologist (Brooks AFB). Picture taken by Dr. (CAPT) Michael Hasler.


Description:
Vipera lebetina( blunt nose viper). This snake was caught in Freedom Air Force base Kirkuk,Iraq. Identification was made by Dr. Chad McHugh entomologist (Brooks AFB). Picture taken by Dr. (CAPT) Michael Hasler.


Description:
The snake is 3.5 feet long, weighs 3 lbs was found in Freedom AFB Kirkuk, Iraq by AF Security Forces. The snake was identified by Dr. Zuhair Amr as Macrovipera lebetina obtusa. The photographer was Dr. Michael Hasler.


Same snake (Macrovipera lebetina obtusa) as above.


Another image of same snake (Macrovipera lebetina obtusa).

Finally I came across a webpage of a British guy who has recorded some of his nature observations around Camp Victory. The most notable observation is a Goliath Heron he saw near the palace complex. These are gigantic birds (bigger than Great Blue or Grey Herons). I know that they used to be found in the southern marshes but perhaps this was a non-breeder or a post-breeding dispersal. You have to read through his letters home to find his observations, but I found the whole series of posts enjoyable. I especially liked the description of his finding a big fat (Green) Toad calling like a magpie (link to an audio of the male toad's advertisement call).

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