A quick trip to Israel

This last week was the “10th Symposium on the Lacertids of the Mediterranean Basin and 2nd Symposium on Mediterranean Lizards.” I know… a mouthful. There was just about more conference title than participants. All told, about 50 people similarly excited about lizards living in Mediterranean habitats descended on Tel Aviv and shared their work. The conference was a great way to meet a lot of folks who’s papers I’d read but who I’d never had the chance to chat with in person. The plenary speakers alone heralded from from Australia, Serbia, Israel, Belgium, Greece, and the US and the other participants ranged from Russia, France, Cyprus, India, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and many more countries. Luckily for me, the conference was in english as I was just about the only person there without thorough command of multiple languages.

The talks were generally great, highlighting work of professors back-to-back with students. There’s lots of interesting research going on in the Mediterranean but it’s sometimes hard to connect the dots between the threads. This seems to be a systemic difference in comparison to the Anole world where the research efforts are much more tightly integrated. There are drawbacks to the Anole approach too; I’m going to have to think more about what a happy medium might look like and how the “new generation” of labs working on Mediterranean lizards might be able to push towards a more hybrid model.

One of the best parts of the conference was a field excursion to the Western Negev desert.

As you can see, we were about 1 km away from the border with Egypt. The dunes were magnificent; desolate, and beautiful. Yet, I left immensely relieved that I was doing my work in the Greek Islands instead of the desert. Here are a few pictures from the trip:

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Here’s the gaggle of most of the herpetologists (and at least one good-sport wife) watching conference host, Shai Meiri tell us about one of the desert lizard species, Acanthodactylus scutellatus.

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We spent a lot of our time tracking the lizards and snakes in the sand. Here’s an intriguing sign, meant to be read left to right. One of the desert skinks is an adept sand swimmer and yet sometimes surfaces above ground where it trots to its next destination. The squiggles on the left are where the sand has filled in behind her subterranean progress, she surfaces mid-way through, and pops above ground to walk across the surface after that.

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Claire with a lizard in hand (Acanthodactylus scutellatus).

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We stayed well past night-fall because many of the desert species become most active after the glaring sun goes down. Here’s Panayiotis Pafilis showing off a beautiful gecko, Stenodactylus stenodactylus.

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Here’s Shai showing off a beautiful Scincus scincus specimen to three researchers whose work I’ve enjoyed reading for the last ten years: Rick Shine, Claudia Corti, and Miguel Carretero.

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The beautiful Scincus scincus, my favorite find of the day. IMG_9613

Once the sun went down we were “lucky” to find tons and tons of snakes. Most of the snakes are actually pretty small but venomous (15 cm to about 30 cm in length). They’d really pack a punch though so I steered clear and let the pros work with them. This was the best photo I got of Cerastes cerastes. It’s a beautiful snake with two big horns on its head. IMG_9638

Here’s a final picture showing another academic role model, Aaron Bauer, enjoying a close look at a gecko species he’d never seen in the wild before. It was my first time seeing the species too but it’s somewhat more exciting for Aaron as he’s the world expert on geckos and has spent years in the field on every continent where geckos can be found. (I can’t remember though whether this was Stenodactylus stenodactylus or Stenodactylus petrii… we saw both).


3 thoughts on “A quick trip to Israel

  1. Wow, what a trip. I am sure everyone was impressed by Good-Sport wife’s lizard catching ability after her time in the field.

    The Scincus scincus is very interesting. It has a more fish like than lizard like appearance to me. The shape of the head, the fish scale like pattern and what appears to almost be a gill…

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