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Wadi Aboule Flora and Fauna -- March 1994

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by Michael P.T. Gillett

(The following article appeared in the May, 1994, Newsletter of the Al Ain chapter of the Emirates Natural History Group.)

Several trips were made to Wadi Aboule (10 km ENE of Mahdah, Sultanate of Oman) before and during the Eid al Fitr period, mainly to service a series of "fermenting-malt traps" for beetles and as part of the Al Ain Meloid Survey. The traps had been placed to capture further examples of a new species of geotrupid beetle, a single damaged example of which had been dug up towards the end of Ramadan. However, the traps were singularly unsuccessful, yielding mainly non-domestic cockroaches as well as a few ants, tenebrionid and aphodiine beetles. However, the visits served to collect other information particularly on the flora and the first meloid records for 1994 were made.

Flora

The following list of flowering plants (excluding grasses and sedges) was made in the area near Aboule village and in the wadi and cultivated patches above the village. Whilst not pretending to be exhaustive, the list does give a good indication of the variety of plants to be found in this type of terrain:

Urticaceae Forsskaolea tenacissima*
Moraceae Ficus salicifolia**
Polyonaceae Pteropyrun scoparium*
Rumex vesicarius*
Aizoaceae Aizoon canariense*
Caryophyllaceae Cometes surattensis*
Nyctagiinaceae Boerhavia elegans*
Chenopodiaceae Chenopodium album*
Amaranthaceae  
Cruciferae Diplotaxa harra*
Erucaria hispanica*
Morettia parviflora*
Physorrhnchus chamaerapistrum*/**
Zilla spinosa*
Resedaceae Ochradenus aucheri*
Reseda aucheri*
Leguminosea Acacia tortillis
Argyrolobium roseum*/**
Cassia italica*/**
Crotalaria aegyptiaca*
Tephrosia appollinea*/**
Vicia sp**
Zygophyllaceae Fagonia indica*
Zygophyllum hamiense
Zygophyllum simplex
Euphorbiaceae Chrozophora oblongifolia*
Euphorbia larica
Euphorbia hirta*
Rhamnaceae Zizyphus spina-christi**
Malvaceae Malva parvifora
Cucubitaceae Citrullus colocynthis**
Cucmis prophetarum*/**
Primulaceae Anagallis arvensis*
Rutaceae Haplophyllum tuberculatum*
Gentianaceae Ccntaurium pulchellum*
Apocynaceae Rhazya stricta*
Asclepiadaceae Calotropis procera*
Rubiaceae Gaillonia aucheri*
Pseudogaillonia hymenostephana
Convulvulaceae Convulvulus prostratus*/**
Boraginaceae Gastroctyle hispida*/**
Heliotropium calcareum*
Heliotropium kotschyi*
Scrophulariaceae Kickxia ramosissima*
Scrophularia deserti*/**
Acanthaceae Blepharis ciliaris*/**
Plantginaceae Plantago ciliata*
Compositae Echinops aff. spinosissima*
Launaea capitata*
Launaea massauensis*/**
Pulicaria glutinosa*
Reichardia tingitana*
Sonchus olearaceus*/**
Veronia arabica*
Liliaceae Asphodelus tenuifolius*

Butterflies

Quite a few of the visits were made on cloudy/overcast days and butterfly sightings were fewer than expected. However, all of the species recorded during January at nearby Wadi Masah were present with the following additions:

Common Swallowtail Papilio machaon
Brown-veined White Anaphaesis aurota
Sahel Orange Tip Coloris liagore
African Ringlet Ypthima asterope
Small Cupid Chilades parrhasius

Examples of the Figtree Blue (Myrina silensus) were seen on two occasions - once near to the foodplant and secondly on a stretch of shingle beach. On the second occasion, the weather was very overcast and the butterfly was seen flying over the shingle and then diving abruptly into a crevice between two small rocks leaving the hind wing tails sticking up into the air. The underside coloration of the butterfly provided almost perfect camouflage and the butterfly was reluctant to fly away from its hiding place even when gently poked with a finger. When it did fly away, it repeated its behaviour of darting into cover amongst the shingle, which suggests that this is a normal type of resting behavior during overcast conditions quite in contrast from the resting behavior on fig leaves or rocks when the sun is out, when the bright colors of the upper surface are exposed and the butterflies appear to be sunning themselves.

Beetles

Interesting beetles recorded during March from the wadi and associated with water or the edges of water include the following:

Tiger beetles Cicindela melancholica
C. histrio
Burrowing ground beetle Scarites
Metallic ground beetle Chaelaniussp (the third species of this genus recorded so far from the Hajar mountains around Al Ain)
Bombardier beetle Pherosophus africanus (a spectacular species newly recorded from Oman in December, 1993, January and February 1994, and which has been written up for publication in Tribulus)
Diving beetle Cybister
Whirygig beetle Gyrinus
Crawling water beetle fam. Haliplidae

Other beetles included:

Mylabris aff. gratiosa (four examples were recorded of this either bright orange-red or yellow meloid beetle and each had different patterns of black markings. Associated with Convulvulus prostratus)
Nemognatha sp (a large meloid blister beetle on Ochradenus aucheri flowers)
Adesemia (a large diurnal tenebrionid beetle with a taste for fallen sidr fruits)
Cryptocephalus (a small chrysomelid leaf beetle associated with the poisonous oleander plant - Nerium)

Dragonflies/Damsel Flies

I am not an expert on the Odonata, which is a pity because Wadi Aboule, like all of the other wadis which I have visited in the Hajar Mountains, has a spectacular and very colorful variety of these graceful insects. Perhaps some other group member could be persuaded to make a study of these, but for the moment the following are tentative identifications:

Powderblue Damselfly Arabicnumis caerulea
Blue-banded Damselfly Ischnura evansi
Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator
Orange Darter Trithemis kirbyi
Purple-blushed Darter T. annulata
Carmine Darter Crocothemis erythraea

Toads

Whilst many toads were seen in the water or hopping about on land, others were discovered beneath rocks. Since two species of toad are known from this region of Arabia -- the mainly diurnal Bufo arabicus and the nocturnal B. dhofarensis, all specimens that could be caught were carefully examined. About twenty specimens were caught and all turned out to be B. arabicus. Many tadpoles were also present and presumably they belong to the same species.


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