Recent observations on snakes from Jordan

Mohammad Al-Saraireh1* & Amr Ghyada2
1 Royal Medical Services, Oncology Department, Amman, Jordan
*  Corresponding author: abohashem99m@gmail.com
2 China Energy Group, Construction Department, Amman, Jordan

 

The status and distribution of the snakes of Jordan have been extensively documented over the past three decades. However, additional distributional data are important to better understand the true distribution and ecological preference of snakes. Field notes are useful in that they provide anecdotal, needed information that can provide more insight to the biology of these animals. In this communication, we provide additional distributional and ecological observations for 18 species of snakes. 
Family Colubridae
Dolichophis jugularis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Materials: Salt, 1.4.2018. Jawa (near Amman), 6.6.2018. Al Mazar Al Janoubi, 27.6.2018. 
Remarks: A juvenile measuring 35 cm, Jawa, near Amman. An immature snake reaching up to 125 cm with the typical immature coloration was collected from Al Mazar Al Janoubi, while three other adult individuals were observed in a chicken farm.  A 275 cm adult specimen was collected from Salt. The Syrian Black Snake is confined to the Mediterranean biotope, although specimens were also found in transitional areas between the Irano-Turanian and the Mediterranean biotopes (Amr & Disi, 2011).
Hemorrhois nummifer (Reuss, 1834)
Material: Wadi Al Hidan, 23.3.2018.
Remarks: The Coin Snake is usually found in shrubby and forested areas that extend along the mountainous range stretching from the north as far as Petra to the south (Amr & Disi, 2011). It was found in a cliff overlooking the water source. 
Lytorhynchus diadema (Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854) Fig 1A
Material: Al Atarat, 27.3.2018.
Remarks: The Diademed Sand Snake has been collected previously from southern Jordan. Al-Oran (2000) referred to a specimen collected from Al Jafer (in Southern or some other part of Jordan) similar to the individual we collected as “forma ”kennedyi” Schmidt, 1939” in Al Atarat. The body colour was bright orange to reddish, with dark transverse spots on body and tail.
Malpolon insignitus (Geoffroy De St-Hilaire, 1809) 
Material: Al Hashemeyah, near Zarqa, 3.1.2018.
Remarks: The Montpellier Snake typically inhabits the Mediterranean biotope in Jordan that is typically associated with vegetated areas. We collected an individual from arid regions within the  Irano-Turanian biotope in the Al Hashemeyah area, near Zarqa. This snake was found hibernating under rocks in a  construction site. 
Platyceps collaris (Müller, 1878)
Material: Ain Al Bedah, Marka near Amman, 10.8.2017
Remarks: The Red Whip Snake is a strictly Mediterranean species. It is distributed along the mountain ranges that extend along northern Jordan to Petra in the south (Amr & Disi, 2011).
Platyceps rogersi (Anderson, 1893) Fig 1B
Material: Al Jizah, 20.5.2018.
Remarks: Roger’s Snake inhabits rocky or stony hills, hamada and steppes (Amr & Disi, 2011). It is more common in the eastern desert. Two specimens were found in a deserted house.
Platyceps sinai (Schmidt & Marx, 1956)
Material: Wadi Wadyeh (Ghor Al Karak), 19.8.2018.
Remarks: The Sinai Banded Snake was collected and observed previously from mouth of Wadi Al Mujib (Werner, 1998) and Wadi Ramm (Sindaco et al., 1995). This is a rare snake with limited known localities. It was found killed in the wadi.
Psammophis schokari (Forskål, 1775)
Material: Al Jizah, 20.5.2018.
Remarks: This is a common species in arid habitats, however, its distribution reaches the Mediterranean ecozone. It was observed during daytime under bushes on a black basalt wall at mid-day (Amr & Disi, 2011).
Rhagerhis moilensis (Reuss, 1834) Fig 2A
Material: Al Atarat, 13.5.2018.
Remarks: The Moila Snake is a common species in the Saharo-Arabian as well as some limited areas within the Irano-Turanian biotopes.

Figure 1: A. Lytorhynchus diadema from Al Atarat, B. Rhagerhis moilensis Al Atarat.

Telescopus dhara (Forskål, 1775) Fig 2B
Material: Al Kafrain, 30.3.2018.
Remarks: The Tree Cat Snake is distributed in the arid regions and rocky hills of the southern Jordan Valley, Wadi Araba and Wadi Ramm (Amr & Disi, 2011). This specimen was found in a banana planation within the Jordan Valley.

Telescopus nigriceps (Ahl, 1924)
Material: Sakhra, 3.7.2018.
Remarks: The Black-headed Cat Snake is characterized by two forms in Jordan. The true or typical form “T. nigriceps” and the form “T. cf. nigriceps”. The first form is found in flat desert areas at low elevations, while the latter form is known from mountainous areas at high elevation (Disi et al., 2001). We collected one individual at one am near a pigeon coup.

Figure 2: A. Platyceps rogersi from Al Jizah. B. Telescopus dhara from Al Kafrain.

Family Atractaspididae
Micrelaps muelleri Boettger, 1880
Material: Kitim, 18.6.2018
Remarks: The Mueller’s Ground Viper is a nocturnal and fossorial snake. This specimen was collected from a house.

Family Elapidae
Walterinnesia aegyptia Lataste, 1887
Material: Mahis, July 2017. Saroot, 14 August 2018.
Remarks: The black desert Cobra is from extreme desert habitats in the eastern desert and Wadi Araba to the mountain ranges near Al Karak and As Salt areas (Amr & Disi, 2011). We collected an individual from a mixed oak and pine forest in the Mediterranean zone.

Family Viperidae
Daboia palaestinae (Werner, 1938)
Material: Wadi Al Harmeyeh (Salt), 29.4.2018. Al Shajarah, 4.3.2018.
Remarks: The Palestine Viper is associated with oak and pine forested areas (Amr & Disi, 2011). The specimen from Wadi Al Harmeyeh was in ambush position under oak leaf letter around 11 am. We observed it striking a dove. This snake is considered the most dangerous viper in Jordan, causing the highest rate of fatalities (Amr & Disi, 2015).

Echis coloratus Günther, 1878 
Material: Wadi Shaib, July 2017.
Remarks: The Arabian Saw-scaled Viper is an abundant and widespread snake that occurs in steep, dry rocky hillsides of mountains (Amr & Disi, 2011). This species is considered one of the most venomous vipers in Jordan (Amr & Disi, 2015).

Macrovipera lebetina obtusa (Dwigubsky, 1832) Fig 3A
Material: Karka (Tafilah), 6.7.2018.
Remarks: Al-Oran et al. (1998) recorded the Levantine Viper for the first time in Jordan from Sail El ‘Aina and Al Ḩarīr. Two large specimens were caught by a farmer from Karka, where one was killed instantly, while the other individual was kept alive. The alive specimen regurgitated three house sparrows. Karka is close to Al Ḩarīr.

Pseudocerastes fieldi Schmidt, 1930 Fig 3B
Material: Azraq, 22.6.2018. Wadi Al Ghadaf, 9.8.2018. 
Remarks: All previous specimens of the False Horn Viper recorded in Jordan have been the melanistic form from the eastern desert. Both of our specimens represent a new colour form for Jordan.

Figure 3: A: Macrovipera lebetina obtusa from Karka (Tafilah), B: Pseudocerastes fieldi from Wadi Al Ghadaf.

 


Jordan Journal of Natural History, 4, (2017),  59-66.

Other articles published in the same issue: Jordan Journal of Natural History, vol.4, iss. 4.

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