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 http://molevol.cmima.csic.es/carranza/data.html