At­las list­ing 101 rep­tiles found in Oman pub­lished on­line

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE - M Na­j­muz Za­far

For the first time, a team of Omani and in­ter­na­tional sci­en­tists has cre­ated a data­base com­pris­ing 5,359 records of 101 known species of Oman’s ter­res­trial rep­tiles.

The At­las of Ter­res­trial Rep­tiles of Oman is now avail­able over the In­ter­net for free.

The at­las is an un­prece­dented data set that has been an­a­lysed with spa­tial tools to in­fer the pat­terns of species rich­ness and en­demic­ity. It also throws light on the habi­tat pref­er­ence of each species and de­fines con­ser­va­tion pri­or­i­ties, with spe­cial fo­cus on the ef­fec­tive­ness of the pro­tected ar­eas in pre­serv­ing this unique fauna.

“We have been work­ing on it since 2005, my first ex­pe­di­tion to Oman, and it was fi­nally pub­lished this year. The work has been pub­lished in a top In­ter­na­tional jour­nal (PlosONE) so it is sci­en­tif­i­cally very unique within Ara­bia,” Dr Sal­vador Car­ranza from the In­sti­tute of Evo­lu­tion­ary Bi­ol­ogy (CSIC-UPF), Spain, told Mus­cat Daily. Dr Car­ranza along with his 26 re­searchers and 13 members from the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Af­fairs (MECA), Oman, scoured un­charted ter­rain for more than a decade to com­pile the im­por­tant sci­en­tific data set about the rich rep­tile bio­di­ver­sity.

Saleh al Saadi, direc­tor, Bio­di­ver­sity Depart­ment, MECA, said that this was a unique project not un­der­taken any­where else in the Arab world. “This is not just iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of rep­til­ian species and its sim­ple de­scrip­tion, but a unique project where each work is de­scribed based on its DNA iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.”

The at­las lists 101 species, out of which 20 are en­demic to Oman. “Out of the 101 species, our team has dis­cov­ered 21 species (20.7 per cent of all species). Of the 20 en­demic species, our team has dis­cov­ered 12 (60 per cent of all en­demic species),” said Dr Car­ranza.

Speak­ing about the species that stood out for him, Dr Car­ranza said there was the largest Hemi­dacty­lus from main­land Ara­bia (Hemi­dacty­lus luque­o­rum) with a size of up to 20cm that his team de­scribed in 2012.

“It is en­demic to Jebel Akhdar, where it lives mainly at el­e­va­tions be­tween 500m and 2,200m - a true moun­taineer.”

The re­sults also show that the rich­ness of rep­til­ian species is high­est in the Al Ha­jar and Dho­far moun­tains, two of the most bio­di­verse ar­eas in the Ara­bian Penin­sula.

“The Al Ha­jar Moun­tains are unique as they are home to a very high num­ber of en­demic species of both plants and an­i­mals. For in­stance, there are al­ready 19 species of de­scribed rep­tiles that do not live any­where else in the world. The rep­til­ian species of the Al Ha­jar Moun­tains are unique and our stud­ies in­di­cate that some of the species such as the noc­tur­nal gecko -

Asac­cus mon­tanus - have been liv­ing in this mas­sif for the past 20mn years. Some ar­eas of Jebel Akhdar have the high­est lev­els of both species rich­ness and en­demic species rich­ness.”

Dho­far gov­er­norate has the high­est num­ber of rep­til­ian species (60) and South Shar­qiyah has the high­est num­ber of en­demic species (nine).

Dr Car­ranaza added that the work will help the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity im­mensely as well any­one look­ing for in­for­ma­tion on bio­di­ver­sity in Oman.

“To have a good idea of how many species of ter­res­trial rep­tiles there are in Oman and where they live is a cru­cial first step for any eco­log­i­cal, be­havioural and con­ser­va­tion study,” he said. “Oman has an in­cred­i­ble rep­tile fauna that does not live any­where else in the world. Once the Omani peo­ple get to know it and learn how to recog­nise it through stud­ies like the one that we have done, I am sure that they will feel very proud of their unique bio­di­ver­sity and will do their best to con­serve it.”

A high res­o­lu­tion PDF of the at­las is avail­able for free at ar­ranza/data.html

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