Iran shares several of the species from among its diverse array of native reptiles with other countries in the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula, as well as those in South, Central, and West Asia. The country and its neighbors harbor different types of snakes, cobras, crocodiles, and sea turtles. The spider-tailed horned viper is one of a kind reptile native to the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Unlike other vipers, these species has a tail that resembles a spider in motion luring insectivorous birds of prey which then become food to the snake. The carnivorous species of the Bengal Monitor also lives within Iraq. Another fascinating and endangered reptile is the mass nesting Olive Ridley Turtle with females that carry the male’s sperm within their bodies thus able to continuously breed for many months. The venomous Caspian snake prefers to live in solitude in northern parts of Iran.
Spider-Tailed Horned Viper (Pseudocerastes urarachnoides)
Pseudocerastes urarachnoides, the spider-tailed horned viper, is a species endemic to the Zagros Mountains of western Iran. Its head is similar to other Pseudocerastes species while the tail is more unique with a tube-like end bordered by long and dropping scales giving, it a spider-like appearance. Around the eye, the scales rise to give a horned appearance. Between the horns, there are about sixteen to seventeen scales. The species has 15 pairs of sub-caudals. The tail’s tip resembles a moving spider thus luring birds within striking distance. The spider-tailed horned viper prefers to live in hilly areas, within deep rocky cracks. Sometimes it lives in the ambush of small shrubs near their burrows. The snakes breeding system and life cycle are unknown. The threats to Pseudocerastes urarachnoides are unknown as it is a unique species, but over collecting by the international pet, traders are a potential threat.
Bengal Monitor (Varanus bengalensis)
The Bengal monitor has a wide distribution across the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and West Asia. The terrestrial lizard is usually big reaching a size of 175 centimeters in snout-to-vent length. The adult is gray. A male monitor lizard is larger than the female. The lizard can weigh as much as 7 kilograms with the heaviest members of the species reaching a weight of 10 kilograms. Patterned crossbars run from the chin to the tail which lightens while the ground color darkens with age. The Bengal monitor lizard prefers to live in areas with continuous warm climates although it can live in deserts, rainforests, and habitats with snowy winters. The incubation period ranges from 70 to 327 days, depending on the temperatures. A high incubation temperature reduces development time, skew sex ratios or causes offspring defects. Within three years after hatching, the species reach sexual maturity. The female lizards usually produce one egg clutch each year all their lives. The lizard is a carnivorous species feeding on arthropods, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and eggs. They usually swallow the prey whole. Even though it has a broad distribution, it faces increased pressure from snake hunters for its meat, skin, and medicinal purposes.
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)
Lepidochelys olivacea, commonly referred to as the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, is a sea turtle species found along Iranian coasts. It has a wide geographical range, living within the subtropical and tropical regions in the Indian oceans, the Pacific, and Southern Atlantic Ocean. The Olive Ridley Turtle prefers to live within 15 kilometers from the shores and breeds and sunbathe in shallow seas. The Olive Ridley Sea Turtle can weigh as much as 45 kilograms and is 75 centimeters in length. The turtle has an olive-grey background. In males, the tails extend past the carapace unlike in females. The species also have a relatively thin shell which is heart-shaped and olive in color. The turtle has four limbs, and each has two claws. The Olive Ridley Sea Turtle breeds during the spring. Mating takes place offshore of the breeding areas. The sea turtle exhibits mass nesting with more than 300 female species coming ashore to breed. The females store the males’ sperms within their bodies, for later use and can thus females can nest many months in a row. The incubation temperature determines the sex ratio and time may range from 45 to 51 days. The species is carnivorous feeding on jellyfish shrimps, crabs, and snails. In captivity, the species exhibit cannibalistic behavior. In areas devoid of food, the sea turtle feeds on algae. Olive Ridley Sea Turtle has a slow intrinsic growth rate. As such, overfishing of these species threatens the populations. Their eggs are also harvested worldwide leading to reduced populations. Also, degradation and transformation of natural habitats pose a threat to the species.
Caspian Cobra (Naja oxiana)
Naja oxiana, commonly referred to as the Caspian Cobra, is a snake species native to Iran and other parts of the Trans-Caspian region. The medium-sized snake has a dorso-ventrally and sub-cylindrical compressed posterior. It has long cervical ribs that expand to form a hood. The species head is depressed, elliptical and slightly different from the neck. The nostrils are large while the snout is short and rounded. It has smooth and strongly oblique dorsal scales. Juveniles are paler than adults with noticeable crossbars. The adults have a yellowish or chocolate background. The species prefers to live in arid and semi-arid areas, and rocky, stony, shrub covered foothills. The habitat range is about 3,000 meters above sea level. The Cobra preys on toads, rodents, fish, birds, and eggs. It lives in holes embarked on trees. The Caspian cobra is aggressive and bad-tempered, a good climber, and swimmer. The Caspian snake is oviparous laying six to nineteen eggs. These hatchlings become independent right after birth.
Threats to the Reptiles of Iran
Iran has a diversified array of reptilian species living in it and its surrounding countries. These species face major threats from human encroachment and habitat destruction. For snakes and Cobra, human encroachment leads to increased confrontations as these species tend to seek food in populated areas. Also, the destruction of coastal beaches and waters result in habitat loss threatening sea turtles.
Native Reptiles Of Iran
|Native Reptiles of Iran||Scientific Name|
|Spider-Tailed Horned Viper||Pseudocerastes urarachnoides|
|Bengal Monitor||Varanus bengalensis|
|Olive Ridley Sea Turtle||Lepidochelys olivacea|
|Caspian Cobra||Naja oxiana|
|Mugger Crocodile||Crocodylus palustris|
|Eastern Skink||Scincus mitranus|
|Maranjab Snake Skink||Ophiomorus maranjabensis|
|Persian Spider Gecko||Agamura persica|
|Iranian Rock Gecko||Pristurus rupestris|
|Leopard Gecko||Eublepharis macularius|