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Wanna Sandboard?? Dive in here to see Psammophiles

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Sand dunes form an important, unique, and complex ecological, geomorphological and physical system. In some cases sand dunes are considered menace to human habitations. Yet, dune sand is an important habitat for psammophilic fauna and flora

Ever seen a sand art in person?

Well, none like this I’m sure

So amazing is this artist I met

No need for a pencil or a brush,

No hands even!

Breath is all this artist needs

Innumerable masterpieces

Gentle strokes to erratic storms

An everchanging topography,

An everchanging maze

Careful that you don’t get lost*

Sinking foot at an unexpected turn

To eyes ever inviting the sand man at the bright of day

Who knows?

If you are lucky enough, fossils or Miriam’s** bones you may see

History right under your feet!

But watch out!

Snakes and scorpions are not the only ones eager for a company!

oh I almost forgot!

Don’t forget to take your UV lights!

*(After crossing the red sea, Israelites wandered hereabout 40 years in the desert before properly settling in the GOD given promised land )

**(Sister of Moses who was buried in Kadesh Barnea- a place very near to this sand dunes)

Alfred Daniel J takes this opportunity to specially thank Prof Hadas Hawlena who was kind enough to invite him on this amazing sand dunes trip and taught him so many things about this unique fauna. He also thanks Prof Uri Roll with whom he revisited the sand dunes. He also thanks Goni and Arun who spotted the snakes

Come on.... let’s dig

A scorpion (Vaejovidae) glowing under UV light. Do scorpions glow? Yes. That’s an easy question to answer. It’s a bit more difficult say exactly what is making them to glow. In fact, scientists are still working on finding a firm answer to that question.

Buthacus levyi predating a moth Holcocerus - These are sand scorpions with long slender legs

Close up and face to face with Buthacus nitzani

Chamaeleo chamaeleon musae the Sinai Chameleon. The eggs of this Israeli chameleon are incubated in the sand for 11 months.

Stenodactylus petrii, known as the dune gecko is a small nocturnal one. Unlike other geckos, dune geckos cannot climb up smooth surfaces. Instead, they prefer to dig. They sometimes appear slow, but they can be extremely fast.

They extend their tongues and "taste" their environment to gain information about it.

Hyalomma are the only genera of ticks to live in such harsh desert conditions. With few hosts available, they are required to be active as soon as a potential host is sensed. They usually feed on birds and rodents, but Adult Hyalomma can bite humans and transmit serious pathogens. Nymphs are often transmitted from one place to another by migrating birds.

Hyalorrhipis sp. the digging grasshoppers. It moves forward and back- ward, thus enlarging the depression made in the sand. Soon the depression becomes so deep. For this purpose, they mainly use the second pair of legs, moving them backwards and forwards to sweep sand on to her body, while the anterior legs help to cover the head. Finally, only the vertex, eyes and antennae remain visible above the sand. Thus they protect themselves from wind and when the weather is not favorable.

Camponotus ant carrying a great meal and rushing towards its colony

Corydiidae - Sand cockroaces spend almost their entire lives burrowing in sand dunes enabling them to avoid the extreme temperatures at the sand surface -- very hot in the daytime in summer and cold at night in winter. The loosely-packed sand collapses around them as they push through it with their legs, so permanent burrows are never formed.

Desert Darkling beetle. Micro-sized grooves or bumps on the beetle’s hardened forewings can help condense and direct water toward the beetle’s awaiting mouth, while a combination of hydrophilic (water attracting) and hydrophobic (water repelling) areas on these structures may increase fog- and dew-harvesting efficiency. For Darkling beetles, the act of facing into the foggy wind and raising its rear end up in the air (known as fog-basking behavior) is essential for successfully harvesting water from the air.

Rhagodidae - Solifugid. Despite their comparatively short limbs, the Rhagodidae are extremely active and run very quickly through dune sand with surprising rapidity. Their greatly shortened limbs are armed with rows of long, rake-like spines for digging. They feed on insects until their abdomens were so distended that they could scarcely move.

Cerastes cerastes, commonly known as the Desert horned viper. This may have been the species that inflicted Cleopatra’s fatal wound when she used a serpent to commit suicide in the year 31 B. C. (Shakespeare in Anthony and Cleopatra).

So close !!!!

Face to face with horned viper when it is about to kiss me

They are typically ambush predators, lying submerged in sand adjacent to rocks or under vegetation. When approached, they strike very rapidly, holding on to the captured prey (small birds and rodents) until the venom takes effect

Down here is Cerastes vipera Sand Viper

Cerastes vipera is a high specialized sand dunes dweller and therefore restricted to the sand dunes. Your can see here why it is a specialized dune dweller.

Are you nervous?!!! They tends to bury themselves in soft sand, leaving only the eyes and snout exposed ready to ambush unsuspecting prey.

Look at the level of camouflage

Alluring eyes .....

Merging in in the dunes

Cerastes vipera is a caudal lurer, meaning, the digged in sand viper puts its tail in front of its head. When prey comes close, it starts to move its tail tip, which resembles a potential prey for the lizard

If disturbed it assumes an S-shaped coil position and rubs the sides of the body together making a rasping sound and hisses loudly.

If provoked it is quick to strike.

Lytorhynchus diadema- Crowned Leafnose Snake. It is s a non-venomous snake. This species digs, but is not considered fossorial. Feeds mainly on lizards.

The wedge-snouted skink (Chalcides sepsoides). It is subarenaceous, and it moves very efficiently by "swimming" under the sand. In fact, it is rarely seen about the ground, and a common method of capturing is to dig through sand dunes this is because its main escape tactic is to dive into the sand. Its limbs are greatly reduced as an adaptation to this fossorial movement.

Pointed head to swim through the sand.

Lycosa piochardi - generalist predators, and of burrowing nature. The burrow entrance is usually modified ed with a door or a turret (an elevated structure made of silk and vegetation, surrounding the entrance). Activity is mostly nocturnal.

Oxyopes lineatus with a beetle hatch. They are ambush hunting spiders and do not trap their prey in webs, but subdue their victims with their venomous fangs

The long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus). This hedgehog is insectivorous and the long ears are used for heat radiation in the desert. They have great senses of hearing and smell that they use to hunt out food and detect predators.

A sand digging wasp - Myzininae

The ant-lion larva is a ferocious-appearing creature with a robust body, a very plump abdomen. They have flattened head, which bears an enormous pair of sickle like jaws or tusks with several sharp, hollow projections, these act like hypodermic needles, grabbing prey and delivering a potent polypeptide poison, more than 100 times as effective as a Japanese puffer fish. They construct a conical pit trap. When an unlucky ant wanders unknowingly into the pit … no matter what the ant does it’s doomed to slide back into the jaws of death. Hence, they are called as the king of sand dunes.

A Buprestidae beetle, I actually do not know what it is doing in a sand dune.

This cute Gerbillus is an granivore. Its hind legs are more than three times longer than its front legs. It has a very long tail. They moves forward by hopping on its back legs while using its tail as a rudder. In the mating season the male invades the female’s burrow and courts her by drumming on her head and caressing her tail using its small front legs.

Asilinae Promachus sp.- though it is a predatory fly, it is in a dangerous place to get predated

Eremiadinae - these lizards burrows in the sand at the roots of bushes for protection

Scolopendra cingulata the Mediterranean banded centipede is a burrowing animal, preferring dark environments. It is an opportunistic carnivore. It will attack and consume almost any animal that is not larger than itself.

Last but not the least- a poor Utetheisa moth soon going to be a prey. Thank you. Visit again

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