UAE & OMAN 2011

Reptilia: SERPENTES (Snakes)

Most desert snakes are either fossorial (burrowers) or they are active at night, but some species can be found during the day. We searched extensively by morning, evening and night and even captured one snake in the heat of the day. We had four target species, all vipers, and we managed to find three of those.


Eryx jayakari - Arabian sand boa
This strange fossorial boa differs from other sand boas by having its eyes positioned almost dorsally to enable it to lie almost submerged in the sand but still have its eyes above the surface. This curious flatfish-like arrangement is also seen in the Namib side-winding viper (Bitis peringueyi) of southwest Africa. A juvenile sand boa was found in a shallow dry moat around the SDP buildings, contructed as an ant-barrier, while the adult pictured was brought in by a visitor to the AWC.

Arabian sand boa,
Eryx jayakari

a specimen from Al Batayeh, Sharjah, UAE
click on the images to enlarge


Lytorhynchus diadema - Crowned leaf-nosed snake
The leaf-nosed snake is also a burrower, that being the purpose of the over-developed rostral scale on its snout. The single specimen captured was tracked across the desert sands at night, although its trail was serpentine and not a side-winding 'J' trail like the sand viper.

Crowned leaf-nosed snake,
Lytorhynchus diadema

two specimens from Al Batayeh, Sharjah, UAE


Psammophis schokari - Afro-Asian sandsnake
Two sandsnakes were seen in the heat of the day, lying beside a covered path close to the SDP buildings. These rear-fanged venomous snakes were lying in ambush for lizards, birds or mammals. The larger of the pair was captured and photographed. This is the same species tracked and captured by Mark in an Acacia in the Mauritanian Sahara during the filming of Crocodile Canyon (OBA Season 4).

Afro-Asian sandsnake,
Psammophis schokari

a specimen from inside SDP, Al Batayeh, Sharjah, UAE


Cerastes gasperettii - Arabian sand viper
One of the trip's target species and the first one ticked off, on the first evening in the desert. Johannes and Mark tracked this viper for 40 minutes at night, over sand dunes and small gravel pans, following its classic 'J'-shaped side-winding track.

Arabian sand viper,
Cerastes gasperettii

a specimen from Al Batayeh, Sharjah, UAE

Echis carinatus sochureki - Sindh saw-scale viper
Essentially an Asian viper whic occurs on the northeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula from Qatar to Oman, this is a common species in Sharjah, even occurring within the fenced Sharjah Desert Park and around the animal enclosures and buildings. This was the second of the target species for the trip. We found one specimen sitting in ambush on a small pile of sand beside the kerb-stones of the road, waiting for geckos. Note the arrangement of the serrated lateral scales of the body which enable this viper to make the characteristic saw-scaling warning sound. Echis from Asia are usually termed 'saw-scale vipers' whilst those from Africa are called 'carpet vipers'.

Sindh saw-scale viper,
Echis carinatus sochureki

a specimen from inside SDP, Al Batayeh, Sharjah, UAE

Echis omanensis - Oman carpet viper
Until recently treated as a local variant of the Painted carpet viper (Echis coloratus), the Oman carpet viper is endemic to northern Oman and northeastern UAE. This was the third target species of the trip and to find it required a trip to eastern Sharjah, into the rocky mountains around Wadi Al Helo. We found two specimens, a large female in an irrigated garden, sitting in ambush against a wall, and a smaller male at the cliff location, tucked in near a boulder.

Oman carpet viper,
Echis omanensis

top: female from garden site, Wadi Al Helo, Sharjah, UAE
btm: male from cliff site, Wadi Al Helo, Sharjah, UAE