Aside from the general lack of information on the subject of reptiles in Iraq, another factor that complicates identifying the various species is the plethora of common names ascribed to each one. Not to mention the practically dizzying pace of taxonomic change.
Take the little fellow below, who is known as either the Bent-toed Gecko, the Keeled Rock Gecko, the Rough-scaled gecko, the Rough-tailed Gecko or the Rough thin-toed gecko, depending upon the source one consults.
The Latin names are just as bad. In the late fifties, when Professor Khalaf published Reptiles of Iraq, this species was known as Gymnodactylus saber. Since then the entire Gymnodactylus genus has joined the Soviet Union in the dust bin of history. Previous to Khalaf’s publication our gecko had been known as Stenodactylus saber, then Gymnodactylus geckoes. Afterward; Cyrtodactylus saber, then Tenuidactylus (Monodactylous) saber. Presently, the Latinate form is “Cyrtopodion scrum.” There I hope it stays, if only to save some future geek from the arduous search I undertook in my quest to id the gecko in the picture above, one of a number sent in by our Iraqi herpetologist, 1LT. Bill
And when I say “arduous,” I mean “arduous.” I’m getting a callous on my Google finger.
If the plethora of appellations wasn’t enough, there’s also a striking variation in appearance among the species, which is perhaps why Khalaf relies so heavily on scale count and toe configuration for identification purposes in his book. This is the Iranian version–scanned in from Dr. Steven C. Anderson’s Lizards of Iran–of the Rough-tailed Gecko, an individual he photographed in 1975 in the city of Abadan, just a hop, skip and a jump across the Shatt al-Arab from Iraq. Fortunately for my peace of mind, the Florida version of the species is much closer in appearance to the Baghdad Airport version, which is where 1LT Bill found the gecko above.
He found four other species as well. I figure I’m on track to id them all by the summer of 2007.
Eyelids absent. Pupil vertical. Digits not dilated, cylindrical or slightly depressed at the base. The two or three distal phalanges are more or less compressed, not dilated, forming an angle with the basal portion
Head and body are depressed. Head covered, above with small granules intermixed posteriorly with larger tubercles. Nostril between the rostral, first labial, an internasal, and several small scales. Body granular, the granules intermixed with tubercles. Tail cylindrical, tapering. Males with or without preanal or femoral openings. Claws five, free, with sheath. The claw between two enlarged scales, the lower of which deeply notched under the claw.
Gymnodactylus scaber – (rough-scaled gecko)
In the head the eye is large; the ear opening rather small, elliptical, vertical. Usually 12 or 13 upper and 10-12 lower labials. Two pairs of chin shields; but sometimes there are three pairs.
Small species. 10 or 12 regular longitudinal series of large and prominent subtrihedral, strongly keeled tubercles upon the back, narrowly separated from one another by small scales, or touching one another. An indistinct lateral fold. Belly with cycloid-hexagonal, imbricate, large scales, about twenty across the middle. Male with 4-7 preanal pores in a transverse series.
Tail longer than the head and body, more or less depressed, tapering, with rows of large spinose trihedral tubercles above, and a median series of enlarged transverse plates inferiorly. Limbs with keeled imbricate scales above. Toes slender, cylindrical at base.
Sandy-colored above with brown spots regularly arranged. There may be a more or less distinct curved mark upon the nape. Tail banded with brown annuli. Whitish below.