Two weeks ago, I came across a blog that proves its a small world. The soldier 1. Works for the American Red Cross Blood Services 2. Graduated from the same University as I 3. Is working on his MPH 4. Is blogging from Iraq 5. Notices the critters. He's not my doppelganger, but we do share a few things.
On his blog I noticed a few pictures of the local wildlife. He has a Uromastyx picture, posing like a prehistoric dinosaur. From what I've heard, they sometimes live in loose colonies and can be fairly abundant in some camps.
Also on his page are pictures of a large tenebrionid beetle and a camel spider.
His last picture is the first I've seen of a Fringe-toed lizard from Iraq (Acanthodactylus scutellatus). There are several species in this family found in the region. The toes have little projecting scales that help the lizard get traction while running on soft sand. There is actually an unrelated group of lizards in the US and Mexico (Uma sp.) that share the same common name and look superficially similar. The North American Fringe-toed Lizards are quite good at sand swimming and using their shovel nose and specialized toes to move beneath the sand like they are swimming in the water. Since the Iraq lizards have similar adaptations they probably exhibit similar behaviors.
One of the favorite escape techniques of some dune loving lizards is to dive under the sand just after cresting a dune. The predator sees the lizard run up to the top of the dune and gives chase. When the predator gets to the other side, the lizard is gone.
The king of the sand swimmers in Iraq has to be the Sandfish (Scincus scincus). Its really a lizard in the Skink family. The sandfish spends most of its time underground living in soft sand. It feels vibrations from insects and other invertebrates walking around on the surface. It ambushes the prey from below and pulls them under. It reminds me a little of the Sand Worms in the Dune Novels.