TIMOR-LESTE 2011

Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
Phase V

Comoro River, Dili District

Whenever we begin a phase of the project we initiate students and get their feet wet, both physically and metaphorically, with a short field trip up the Comoro River to the south of Dili town.

In the past we have explored and collected specimens on the western bank of the river so this time we took the students along a dusty road on the eastern bank, managing to reach considerably further up-stream than on previous visits (see Comoro River Phase IV).

The team as then split into two to spend around 90 minutes searching for herps. There were no Jets (our Timorese colleagues) available to join us this time so our two teams were small.

The dry Comoro-Bemos Rivers confluence,
where we herped in July 2011.

Near the confluence between the Comoro and Bemos Rivers, 8km south of the Comoro River road bridge, Hinrich took one team with David Taylor, who had been on Phase IV, and our new medic Dr Naveen Jalota, while Mark took the two girls, Caitlin Sanchez, who had been on all four previous phases and become a seasoned fieldworking herpetologist, and new team member Marissa Cox.

The river was reduced to a few fast channels and wide stretches of sand, river pebbles, boulders and coarse, rather aggressive, vegetation.

In places the water channels were canalised with rather ingenious systems of locks and gulleys.

 

 

 

At the confluence of the Comoro and Bemos Rivers in the dry season
click to enlarge images

 

A view up the Comoro River in the dry season
Caitlin and Marissa searching for frogs and tadpoles on the Comoro River

Several snakes have been reported from the Comoro River but we have yet to find one here, usually we find amphibians and lizards.

This visit to the Comoro River was no different.

Our 9o minutes of searching revealed the usual amphibian suspects: the Asian black-spined toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus), including a rather attractive sandy orange specimen, the Rice paddy frog (Fejervarya sp.), and a pair of differently patterned Striped treefrogs (Polypedates cf. leucomystax).

Black-spined toad, Duttaphrynus melanostictus
Rice paddy frog, Fejervarya sp.
Striped treefrogs, Polypedates cf. leucomystax

 

Black-spined toad, Duttaphrynus melanostictus
Rice paddy frog, Fejervarya sp.

 

We also found two geckos, both at the moment treated as the Common house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) - here are four Hemidactylus species on Timor-Leste so with the Mutilated gecko (Gehyra cf. mutilata) there are five small, similar and easily confused geckos which can often occur in sympatry.

Common house geckos, Hemidactylus frenatus

 

Bark scorpion
Lychas mucronatus

click on image to see enlargement of telson

Also discovered beneath a boulder were two scorpions. The small claws, combined with the presence of an accessory spine on the bulbous telson (sting segment) identified these scorpions as buthids, members of the scorpion family containing the majority of medically important species. These were bark scorpions (Lychas mucronatus), capable of delivering a very painful sting as both Hinrich and I recall from earlier encounters with the species in Lautém District on Phase I in 2009.

 

 

Feet offically wetted (or whetted) we headed back to the Timor Lodge Hotel