Reptiles: The Rough-Tailed Gecko

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.

Genus Gymnodactylus
(ground geckos)
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.

Birds Of Iraq: The Greylag Goose

Greylags are members of the family of “True Geese,” the Anserinae. The individuals LTC Bob spotted are likely members of the Eastern subspecies of Greylag, Anser anser rubrirostris. The western subspecies Anser anser anser is the species most often seen wild in Europe.

For a while, LTC Bob thought the pair of Greylag Geese was inhabiting the waters surrounding the Al-Faw Palace were a domestic species. Eventually, a light clicked on, and he sent me the picture above.









I know exactly what he felt like. The first time I traveled to Epcot Center I ignored the Common Moorhens found on the shore of the lake there for days. Assuming that their omnipresence meant that they were a stocked domestic, as if there’s some widespread demand in the world for domesticated waders.

LTC Bob was at least on somewhat more logical grounds than I, as the Greylag is the immediate ancestor of the domestic goose. There’s a reason we look at it and think “Need to find some mint jelly.”

The best way to tell the difference between the domestic and wild versions of Anser is to look at the underside of the goose. The bigger the ass, the bigger the belly, the more likely the bird–or the man, come to think of it–is to be domesticated.

Birds Of Iraq: Fred’s Spotted Wonder Chickens

Aka the Blue-Cheeked Bee Eater, aka Merops precious, Merops supercilious, or perhaps even Merops Philippines. Depending on which school of nomenclature one ascribes to, or where one happens to be in the world upon spotting a representative individual.

bcbecoll1 Nomenclature lumpers in Iraq, India and Madagascar, as well as Birds of the Middle East, declare that similar looking bee-eaters in those three countries are all Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eaters; Merops supercilious.

Nomenclature splitters, and the authors of Kingfishers, Bee-eaters and Rollers, prefer to separate those widely-spaced individuals into two or perhaps three species; in Iraq, the Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eater, Merops persicus; the Madagascar Bee-Eater in Madagascar, Merops superciliosus; and the Blue-Tailed Bee-Eater in India, Merops Philippines, or even Merops supercilious Philippines.

Madagascar and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters are often treated as belonging to Merops precious. Blue-cheeked and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters do not, however, hybridise where they meet on breeding grounds in northwest India, and so they are separate species. Madagascar Bee-eaters could be regarded as a third full species, or united with Blue-cheeked or with Blue-tailed; we prefer the third course (Fry 1984). This complex of bee-eaters varies mainly in respect of facial colours and rump colour.

To confuse matters further, the bird does not rely on bees as a primary food source.

Bees and wasps feature importantly, but this bird is more a dragonfly-eater than a bee-eater. Even on their desert nesting grounds they eat numerous dragonflies and damselflies; also many kinds of small and large bees and wasps, ants, cicadas,-water-scorpions and other bugs, grass-hoppers, locusts, mantises, beetles, moths and butterflies.

Regardless of where they are or what one calls them–one may classify them as Fred’s Spotted Wonder Chickens if one feels the need. There are no nomenclature police–Iraq’s version of this species is a bird of the open country, preferring habitats located along the edges of arid scrub, semi-desert, steppe and farmlands, especially those characterized by the presence of Acacia and other thorn trees, or the Saltbush Salvadora persica. Hence the name “persicus,” which, if read strictly, means the species really ought to be known as the “Saltbush Bee-Eaters,” though Latin fans would likely insist that “Persistent Bee-Eaters” is the only truly correct naming convention.

The collage below, a testament to my photoshop skills–or the lack thereof–was composed of pictures of Bee-Eaters sent in by LTC Bob over the weekend.

Kingfishers, Bee-Eaters and Rollers all belong to the avian order Coraciiformes. With the addition of the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, we’re a third of the way through the list of Coraciiformes species one could reasonably expect to see in Iraq, according to the Avibase listing for that country–even farther along if one goes by sightings, rather than photos.

It’s Been A Year Since The Carnival Debuted

It’s been annual since the Circus of the Vanities debuted. Update this post afterwards with more of thanks, all round, and undoubtedly an introduction and I am likely to break a primary rule of blogging to observe.

Update: And here it is, more pressing real life tasks, in between different, loaded like a great number of posts.

Thanks to the vagaries of the calendar, here is the 52-week the Carnival has been posted, but the true one-year anniversary occurs next Thursday, on the 25th, the day after Pathetic Earthlings hosts.

The first Carnival attracted just 15 articles, a few of that I had to beg for. This one attracted over 70, enough that I really considered cutting a few of the items. In the long run, I was avoided by my own terms from this.

Everyone possesses something of the creative urge, the want to mold a young child of the mind from inspiration and energy. Children are allowed to communicate it, to put a part of themselves into a misshapen clay ashtray, an uneven blue house pulled on construction paper, or sparkles and glue over a paper plate. Sometime around the adolescent years the urge gets suppressed in several people or hidden, possibly being a defensive mechanism. It’s difficult to view your youngster laughed at criticized or dismissed. Thus many of US actively stop producing them. The need doesn’t go away, it never will, it simply finds ones that are not as susceptible to the criticism of the planet, new techniques.

Who am I pronounce it ugly and to appear upon the child of somebody elseis motivation? Would foremost a huge asshole and I do want to have something in keeping with Harold Bloom, who might be many things, but is definitely first?

“He’s a person who creates what was previously called penny dreadfuls. They can believe that there’s any artistic fulfillment or any literary importance there, or indicators of an imaginative human intelligence is merely a testimony with their own idiocy.”

God save me from actually even imagining anything, for there is nothing so unbecoming small-minded bitterness. I can’t think of am more effective solution to inhibit one’s own imagination unless it really is being equally bitter and drop-dead drunk. Given the blogger need to create material over a regular basis so that you can have any audience whatsoever, resentment, and its own twin sister jealousy, are nearly mortal wounds when it comes to creativity.

And the absolute quantity of Imagination will be the most impressive thing about the blogosphere. Given enough volume, quality results. It is almost Darwinian.

…much like animals, memes go thru natural selection, and just the fittest survive. The blogosphere was one of the Darwinian conditions that memes lived and were blessed in. There were numerous writers producing memes that there have been memes than in the past, and much more memes means better memes inside the long run. But I would create another one, and individuals could move it on, or combine another meme these were already infected with to make a whole new one and it. Sometimes I’d see the reflection of one that I made in a stronger, more developed one. The memes that the other people along with I created all had to fight with different memes to survive, and those that emerged were very effective.

Counterintuitive as it might appear, the blogosphere does not care about belief system your political interest, or whatever else that might normally register with the competent media. It cares about ideas. The great job of a thousand bugs produces anything more than anybody of these could ever hope to develop. The vast job of the blogosphere may produce something similar.

What that’ll be, I’ve no idea. I know that if I, and you, keep pushing away, it will get created.

Here are the links, largely in the order these were received. First off is Fred, who gets two links because I lost his email.

Fishes of Iraq: Aspius Vorax

No, American soldiers in Iraq don’t spend all of their time bird watching. They also fish.

Plus, there’s the whole building democracy in the face of terror thing. That takes up some time as well; I’m given to understand.

iraqifishThat’s SPC Mauro above. He’s holding what is essentially a great big minnow. More on that in a minute. Here’s the story on how it was caught, courtesy of our Iraqi avifaunal, LTC Bob.

You’ve also seen all the lakes around here. They aren’t that deep really, probably 6-8 feet at the most. There is a pump station somewhere that pumps water from the Tigris into the canal system. There are lots of birds and stuff to look at – gulls, coots, cormorants, a neat blue kingfisher. Lots of the boys are always trying to fish as well.

I had never seen anyone catch anything, not even the big fat carp, until this afternoon. I was out on the back deck doing some dips and some easy weights, when SPC Mauro, who was casting a little jig from our back deck, says – “SIR – GET THE NET!!”

I did. And I broke the net getting his fish up onto the deck. It is some kind of bass, looks like to me. Has a mouth like a bass, and the smell of a bass. Definitely not a carp. And a pretty good sized fish too. We took pictures and put her back. Mauro was happy, as you can see.

LTC Bob sent the picture off to an army ichthyologist he knew….yes, the army needs ichthyologists, don’t be so provincial. Some of them work here, in fact, including the one who knew a guy who knew the guy who eventually identified the fish.

I did a little more checking around and were positive the fish was Aspius vorax; the other members of the genus have larger scales, A. vorax has 93-105 (A. aspius from Europe has 64-76 lateral-line scales; the fish in the photo has about 95). The common name for this fish is “shelej, shalaj, sholge, or sholgeh.” They should also have a weak knob at the tip of the lower jaw that fits into a notch in the upper jaw (the photo doesn’t show that, but it’s not a good angle). They’re apparently commercially fished in some areas.

There’s an ichthyologist after my own heart. How many people do you think have the patience to count one line of fish scales from head to tail? From a photo, no less, not even a real fish, though admittedly, the original is a fair bit bigger than the one above. As with many of the Birds of Iraq, there’s not a lot known about A. vorax, which is why specimens are desperately desired.

If you can keep a fish or two, we’d love to have the skeletons for study- just fillet them like you were going to cook them (a spoon works great for scraping any remaining flesh off of the bones), then gut them (leave the gills in place), carefully pull the eyes out, dry the carcass with a rag, and either pack them in table salt or put them in a container with rubbing alcohol for a couple of days. They can be shipped in salt, but you would probably want to drain off alcohol before shipping.

There’s something for the Post Office to look forward to.

The best resource on the net for Aspius vorax prior to the Iraqi campaign was one run by a Canadian Ichthyologist, [have a fish beer, eh?–ed] who was eventually pulled in to verify the id of SPC Mauro’s fish. It’s a member of the Cyprinidae family, the parent family of minnows and carp. Prior to the war, about the best representation of the species was this one, based on an over 100-year-old sketch. Now, as the waters around the Al Faw palace are apparently full of them, they’re popping up all over the place.

One even appears to have taken first prize what has got to be a fairly rare event in Iraq, even in the Green Zone, a fishing tournament.

To hearken back to one of our earliest themes; You’ll know we’ll have won the War On Terror when ESPN presents “Fishing Al-Faw with Bill Dance.”

The Carnival Turns Two Soon

I never expected it to last for a year once I first started the Circus. Last year around this time, if it’d last another had you asked me, I’d have considered the likelihood to get a minute or two before addressing, “Nah.”

I am a candle inside the darkness, I’m. In fact, the endurance of the Carnival–long with regards to the Web, that’s, for in case a calendar year may be the equivalent of seven for a dog-then surely it is something across the collections of the decade in Net time–is due to the fact that, not merely does it keep on keeping on, anything that I Have long considered important to review success, it is designed the main quality of a successful meme–the capacity to survive and succeed in a changing environment.

Had I insisted on hosting because as any number can tell you, it requires a truckload of time to put together before a year was out every Circus at Hraka it’d have vanished to the Net ether, and that I could have tired of the effort. Had I instituted a rule that submissions reach a certain quality level as defined by each sponsor, then a large number of articles would have been snipped away, and a large number of experts could have departed forever, not simply wearing the potential host pool, but spreading acrimony all over. Subjective choices like this increase rage, not tolerance, while the Jolly blogger highlights in another of the posts below. Worst of all, it doesn’t inspire individuals to…keep on keeping on.

I have a buddy that prides himself around the highway on the crispness of his lane improvements. I’ve another who tries to throw an 8-ounce fishing weight one yard further down the high school soccer field every single day after the class has ended. Reel in, cast, cast. Again and over and over, for one hour a day. When he reaches 100 meters, is it Artwork? 150? He’ll be one of just a couple of men in the world who have done if he actually reaches 200. How could it not be Art? He’s not hoping for 200. He is trying for one yard beyond yesterday.

Is blogging Artwork? It is bound to become, eventually. There are too many individuals contributing because of it to not ultimately make works of transcendent beauty, astonishing intelligence, and infectious laughter. Many will argue that it already has. But most of us aren’t targeting those Olympian heights. Many of us desire to toss one yard beyond we did yesterday.

So here we’re, sitting in our pajamas, just one yard more along than we were yesterday.

See you next year. Same website, same time. Different place.

Carnival of the Vanities

Just how many times have you ever revealed something which you thought was a perfectly constructed model of amusing scholarly awareness and trenchant wit, a really good post, only to contain it sink into the large oceans of the blogosphere with scarcely a ripple? Exactly how many instances have you ever imagined that at last is something which will get me a little of identification from the blogerati, simply to be incorrect? I believe that this happens to just about all bloggers, big and small. Sometimes it is just time. If you put-up a very great post about your baby or some little bit of information on a single time that Yasser Arafat is assassinated by Britney Spears, it isn’t to acquire the eye it would have usually earned. Since the child of the head sits there, ignored, a wallflower in the school party, while everybody around you dances together with the popular kids, often there is no-good reason.

Annoying, is not it? Right only want to find the closest water tower, climb up and start taking potshots? I know I do, and I’ve got at least a half- at attracting attention from my betters, decent report. The issue is that there are no established suitable means of declaring hey-you lot, take a peek as of this! And acknowledge, you know you would like them to. Blogging, if nothing else, may be vanity publishing’s bleeding edge. You wouldn’t be achieving this, should you did not think you had anything beneficial to say.

Referral records that are trolling are not fast, and also the greater the prospective, the less opportunity it has of working. Bill Quick’s referral logs go so quickly they smoke. Should you get happy, for about one minute, your visit to Instapundit is viewable in his logs.

There’s always email. Nevertheless it’s frowned on, smacks of desperation, and you also still must expect that somehow your letter stands apart somehow from your audience of thousands or sometimes thousands of additional emails.

That’s one problem. Here is another. I might link to you more often if I was able to read you more regularly. Making one world through the blogroll over there around the left takes a week, at least, and that is with me reading the stuff simply on each blog that was created that morning, and I’m nowhere near as busy since the big guns. When the finest example of your expertise seemed a couple days before I turned up, I’m going to miss it. Deep down, this grates at me. I’ve read enough of one to know that that there are exceptionally skilled and experienced writers in my blogroll that not just don’t get enough attention from everybody else, they don’t really get enough attention from me.

So I possess one that I think towards resolving both issues may get a ways, a request. If you believe you have a good post, e-mail me the web link. I’ll read it, and those I’ve gotten and I’ll connect once per week. It will be an index of everything you and other people think is their finest stuff. To Silflay Hraka’s herd, you’ll be exposed at the toughest, including it is. What’ll probably happen is the fact that people who are trying to find stuff to link to, but might not have a large amount of time and it, can stop by, find a thing that interests them, and connect. Your memes are guaranteed the more people that participate, along with exposure, the more people may put by to take a look.

I’ll post the initial index Friday, and I’ll likely mail this around to the blogroll this weekend. Should you’d prefer to possess a link published, only email someone to me, like Domestic Politics or alt.misc.fetishes or Family Living along with a teaser range, along with a classification because of it, like the Style Blog Experts uses on its frontpage. About the offchance, you choose that of your posts are suitable, try and winnow down it to one, ok? People that like your material will stay so you’ll receive more publicity for that remainder of the website, and you’ll pick up lasting visitors in a faster speed.

I’d like to understand what you believe, since it moves along, and I’ll change the whole thing. I believe it’s going to work very well and certainly will drop some light on stuff happen to be otherwise overlooked.I to relating for some of the greatest stuff within the blogosphere am looking forward.

Of course, that’s assuming someone reads this.

Update: info on the most recent Carnival Of The Vanities, together with forthcoming hosts and the large selection of different Carnivals, is published to Hraka’s main page every Friday. The most recent update could be found here.

Drop us a line should you’d want to host the Circus. Information on how to join the Carnival are available here. If you wish to be put into the Carnival announcement listing, send an email.