20 July 2013

Some Saudi Arabian Geckos from Zulfi – Records by Mansur Al-Fahad

Here are some more photos from Mansur Al Fahad taken near Zulfi during the second week of June 2013. Zulfi is approximately 260 kilometres northwest of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. These three lizards shown below are Geckos with the first one a Yellow Fan-fingered Gecko also known as Common Fan-footed Gecko, the second a Rough-tailed Gecko also known as Rough-tailed Bowfoot Gecko and the third a Baluch Ground Gecko. The Geckos they generally exceptional climbers, able to run across vertical rock faces and even overhangs and cave roofs. They are able to do this due to specialised toe scales, known as scansors, which have up to 150,000 microscopic, highly branched and hair-like structures known as setae. The setae form hundreds of saucer-shaped end plates, which give the gecko an enormous surface area in relation to its body size, enabling it to grip all kinds of surfaces. I would like to thank Mansur for sending me information on the lizards and for kindly allowing me to use his photos that are reproduced here, the copyright of which remains with Mansur.
Yellow Fan-fingered Gecko
Yellow Fan-fingered Gecko Ptyodactylus hasselquistii is common in homes in central Saudi Arabia although they alos occur in caves and the edges of mountains. The lizard has long legs that end in widely splayed toes, tipped on either side by a wide, fan-like fringe from which the lizard gets its common name. The body colouration is pallid, helping to provide camouflage amongst its rocky habitat. They are a relatively vocal species, with males calling with a series of chirrups at night that can be heard at a distance of over 50 metres. 
The common fan-footed gecko is a nocturnal species, emerging after dusk from daytime refuges such as caves and crevices to feed on insects and spiders. They are generally sociable and often encountered in small groups and have a widespread range extending throughout North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East. Populations occur from Morocco east to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, north as far as Iran, and south as far as eastern Ethiopia and northern Somalia.
Rough-tailed Bowfoot Gecko
The Rough-tailed Bowfoot Gecko Cyrtopodion scabrum is a small, nocturnal ground gecko, with exceptionally long, angular toes. The head is flattened downwards, and the eyes are large, lacking eyelids, with vertical pupils that can be contracted during the day to prevent light from damaging the retina. The tail is longer than the head and body and is relatively flat and tapered, with rows of prominent keeled scales and a series of ridged, wart-like bumps, called tubercles, which are arranged regularly along the length of the back. It is sandy in colour and whiter underneath, marked with regular brown spots on the body, and brown bands on the tail. They are active during the night, hunting for small insects such as ants, termites, beetles, moths, and grasshoppers, often foraging in artificially lit areas, often associated with human habitation, where it picks off insects that are attracted to the light. 
They are distributed throughout southwest Asia, including south east Turkey, Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is primarily found in disturbed habitats such as towns, oil camps and desert farms and also lives in homes in villages, but is very rare in cities
Baluch Ground Gecko
The Baluch Ground Gecko Bunopus tuberculatus is a small, ground-dwelling gecko with rather short, straight toes, a long tail, and conspicuous tubercles on the back and flanks. The body is generally tan coloured, giving good camouflage against its sandy habitat, and the tail is barred. As in other geckos, the eyelids are fused together, forming a transparent covering to the eye, however, unlike many other geckos, it lacks expanded toe pads, and is therefore unable to climb vertical surfaces. As its common name suggests, it lives on the ground, digging burrows in the sand and also hiding under surface debris. It is likely to be active at night, feeding on a variety of insects, spiders and other small invertebrates but little is known about it lifestyle. They have been reported as abundant and widespread in vegetated sandy plains and in coastal habitats and can also be found in rocky deserts and near farms, but are not seen in homes. They are found in the Middle East, Arabian Peninsula and southwest Asia, from Israel, Jordan and Syria, south into Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman, north to Turkmenistan and east to Pakistan.