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Iran's Reptiles
Field Dispatch  
Research and Exploration

Iran's Desert Reptiles

How many years did two Swedish zoologists have to wait before they could tell this story? "Almost 30," says Claes Andrén of his unintentionally long-term research project with colleague Göran Nilson. "We did our initial fieldwork in Iran in the mid-1970s, when the shah was head of state. But the Islamic revolution and the Iran-Iraq war made it impossible for Western scientists to work there."
Then in 2000, a door opened. Nasrullah Rastegar-Pouyani, an Iranian student at Göteborg
University who was doing his dissertation on Iran's reptiles, helped Andrén and Nilson get back inside the country.
Their mission in Iran was to survey its herpetofauna: How many different species of reptiles and amphibians could they find? What were their habitats? Of special interest was the fate of a viper (Vipera latifii) that many zoologists feared had gone extinct in the late 1970s, when a new dam flooded critical habitat in the Elburz Mountains. "We're happy to have discovered that a few hundred vipers were still alive," Andrén reports.
During two expeditions the survey team collected 82 species of herpetofauna out of the 230 that were known to exist in Iran—plus ten new species. One of the "most fascinating" was a gray-beige lizard with a long blue tail found on a steep mountain slope. "We also have some dwarf geckos and snakes that are waiting in Sweden for their scientific names," says Andrén, who knows a few things about waiting. 
—Alan Mairson

Web Links

Reptiles and Amphibians
Learn more about the world's reptiles and amphibians at this national zoological site.
Discover where and why amphibian populations are declining around the globe.
Nature and Wildlife Field Guides
Explore this searchable database for information and photographs of reptiles and amphibians.

Free World Map

Anderson, S. C. The Lizards of Iran. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 1999.
Latifi, Mahmoud. The Snakes of Iran. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 1991.
Leviton, A. E., and S. C. Anderson, K. Adler, S. A. Minton. Handbook to Middle East Amphibians and Reptiles. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 1992.
Szczerbak, N. N., and M. L. Golubev. Gecko Fauna of the U.S.S.R. and Contiguous Regions. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 1996.


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