A popular evening activity at an Ecoventure desert camp entails taking the students out into the wilderness in search of stirring beasties. The avid Attenborough fans among the instructors were beginning to frustrate as the continued rock flipping and bush poking was availing to only but a few beetles.
However, as November has brought with it cooler temperatures, out have come not only the green Eco fleeces but also an array of snakes, spiders and scorpions to the desert. Described below are some of the team’s favourites from the last few weeks at Ecoventure.
The Saw Scaled Vipers’ Echis carinatus name is derived from the rows of diagonal scales containing minute projections along the body which the snake will rub together to make a sound similar to the noise made by the rattle of a Rattle snake. The Viper will produce this noise when threatened by making undulating body movements. Often referred to as a sidewinder, the unique way the snake travels over soft sand leaves only two points of the body in contact with the unstable ground. Positioned not too dissimilarly to the photo captured, the snake will travel at an angle of 45 degrees to the line of its body with the head raised and thrown forward, the rest of the body
follows, leaving the distinctive ‘S’ shape in the sand.
Armed with ultra violet torches and a crowd of excitable year 6s, underneath a rock we uncovered a vibrant example of the Arabian fat tailed Scorpion Androctonus crassicauda. Interestingly, the cuticle of these creatures fluoresces under ultraviolet light, although the reason for this remains unknown, it helpfully allows us to pick them out of the desert night. A. crassicauda is one of the largest scorpions found in the UAE, the adults can measure up to 150 mm from their head to the tip of their sting. This species can be identified by the black colour, thick claws and sculptured tail.
This common Arabian sand boa Eryx jayakari was found enjoying a rendition of the peel banana song at one of our camp fire sessions last week.
This particular snake is the only boa found in South East Asia and is also one of the smallest boa species. In comparison to other similar snakes, the body is flat and covered in surprisingly glossy sandy coloured scales and can be recognised by the unusual chisel shaped snout with eyes positioned on the top of the snake’s head as opposed to the side. These particular features allow the boa to reside almost permanently under the sand; smooth scales for burrowing and the eye position allowing it to watch for prey whilst remaining unseen.
After they had been studied and documented all animals were released safely into the desert. For further information on these species a good reference can be found at www.uaeinteract.com/nature.
Photographs taken by Charles Downing
Written by Jessica Lloyd