Archive for the ‘Neuron – Vol. 6 (issue 1) – Dec. 1 (2008)’ Category

Note to AUCians

October 9, 2009

By Mary Habib


While I was walking one day beside the green area in AUC, I noticed many cigarettes are buried in the Palm Trees and around the fountain area. I really got depressed. How much effort AUC workers are exerting to provide you with fresh air and nice places to sit in and you smokers cause their efforts to be in vain.

Not only fresh air and green view are offended, but also class material is deformed. It was 3:30 pm and I was sitting in my class waiting for the doctor and my colleagues were there. Boredom was spreading and spare time came to find someone holding their pen to draw a portrait for the colleague sitting next to them. I thought it was only to kill time graphing on air, but I realized at the end of the class that it was a desk that was left with the random scratch on it.

I am just asking why we give ourselves the right to hack public benefits. Why we even think of the beauty of the environment and tings around us and simply smile without putting our painful sign on them.

The Biology club family is inviting you to sense the beauty of life and promote your environment protection. And always remember life is a big basket, if you spoil, it can’t be able to carry anything for you. Enjoy your life.



October 9, 2009
Contributded by Salma Abdel-Nasser

Contributded by Salma Abdel-Nasser

Leopard in Captivity

October 9, 2009


Photo  by Maha Khalil

This picture of a leopard in captivity was taken at the African Safari Park, an open zoo along the Cairo-Alex road. Many of the animals kept there are in terrible condition due to neglect. .


The White Wagtail

October 9, 2009

By Richard Hoath

Everyone has their own idea as to when winter really begins. Perhaps it is when the traffic police swap their white summer plumage for somber black. Maybe it is when the air-conditioner is switched to warm or when the ceiling fan becomes redundant. But for me, winv6-5ter starts with the arrival of the White Wagtails from their northern breeding grounds. And to my delight, the irrigated gardens, though embryonic, seem to be providing the White Wagtails with ideal habitat on the New Campus.

The White Wagtail Motacilla alba is a small bird of immense character. It is a slim long-tailed bird, 18cm long and largely grey and white with a white face and a blackish band across the upper breast. In the winter male the crown and nape are black, in the female grey. The tail is long and black with white margins. It is one of the more sensibly named birds in that it does indeed wag its tail, particularly vigorously when nervous or agitated. In flight the White Wagtail appears slender, the flight bounding and often accompanied by a distinctive call variously interpreted as tslee-wee or tslee-vit.

Like most wagtails, the White Wagtail is often associated with damp or waterside habitats. However it is an adaptable species and in many parts of its range it is a familiar urban bird with roosts, sometimes of many thousands of birds, gathering in city centers and it is now frequently found far from running water. The gardens of the New Campus provide these winter visitors with ideal new habitat in what would otherwise have been an unsuitable environment. Like all wagtails, and their close relatives the pipits, they are insect eaters. I saw my first New Campus wagtails at the beginning of November, two flying over the square outside HUSS and Admin before my 8.30 class adding a welcome bit of zip to the early morning. Listen out for that call.

Wagtails do indeed wag their tails but scientists really do not understand why. Theories range from it being a form of communication between individuals or species recognition to a distraction to potential predators. Whatever, it makes them one of the most readily identifiable groups of birds and for that, every birdwatcher used to battling with the complexities of such difficult groups as larks or warblers, is very, very grateful.


Alstrom, Per and Krister Mild. Pipits and Wagtails London: Christopher Helm, 2003.

Beaman, Mark and Steve Madge. The Handbook of Bird Identification London: Christopher Helm, 1998.

The Sal’awa – Fact or Fiction?

October 9, 2009

By Maha Khalil

I remember how, as a child in the early 1990s, I was told by friends at school some highly imaginative stories, which then seemed terrifying but now seem ridiculous, about a certain creature which attacks, bites and even kills people for no apparent reason. I was told that this “ugly,” dog-like creature hides under cars and sneaks up on unsuspecting children and adults passing by. Everybody called this “mysterious” creature the Sal’awa orالسلعوةin Arabic. But what is the sal’awa? Does it really exist?

A stray dog claimed to be the sal'awa

A stray dog claimed to be the sal'awa

Most probably not.

In fact, there is no scientific evidence of any kind either online or in books that this creature really exists as a separate species. The only available sources which give information about this creature are newspaper articles based entirely on hearsay which tell stories of the attacks and mention that the sal’awa is not a scientifically classified organism, but just a name invented by the public for what seems to them to be an unfamiliar creature. It first appeared on the eastern edges of Cairo in the 60s and 70s then reappeared in 1996 in the village of Armant in upper Egypt and in Cairo. It’s also claimed to be responsible for another short bout of attacks in 2005 and in October 2008. Some of these attacks resulted in the death and hospitalization of some adults and a few children.

The Sal’awa is described by highly emotional eyewitnesses to be the size of a dog, have hind legs that are somewhat longer than its front legs, a large muzzle that “resembles that of a hyena” and big canine teeth. However, neither veterinarians nor zoologists in Egypt have provided any official identification that separates the Sal’awa from the average street dog.

Some speculate that the Sal’awa must be a hybrid of a dog and a wolf or a dog and a jackal, but that’s all it is – speculation. At first glance, this guess may seem plausible as the resulting hybrids might have the appearance of dogs and the predatory behavior of wolves or jackals (both of which are found in Egypt, the jackal Canis aureus being the more common one). However, again, there is absolutely no evidence.

A wolf-dog hybrid

A wolf-dog hybrid

Not to mention that both wolf-dog hybrids and jackal-dog hybrids look fairly similar and are beautiful creatures known to make excellent pets and working dogs after passing around 3 generations from the original hybrid. Moreover, according to the Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt, the only wolf species recorded in Egypt (Canis lupus)  is  found in the Sinai – a long way away from Cairo and upper Egypt. Surely, the scientific community would not remain quiet if there was any real suspicion that we have a new, unclassified canine species on Egyptian soil.

So, let’s separate fact from fiction. People were attacked by an animal, and some of them died – truth. The creature is an unfamiliar species – highly questionable. The creature is a hybrid between different dog-like species – no evidence of any kind. The creature is simply a rabid street dog  – most probably so.

A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE to keep in mind is that the fox seen on campus in October is NOT the “Sal’awa” as some people claimed!! It was the harmless Red Fox.    

Al Masry Al-Youm (2008). <>.    

Briggs, Helen (2002). “Jackal blood makes ‘perfect’ sniffer dogs”. BBC News. Available from. <;.      

Hoath, Richard (2003). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.

Ground Beetles

October 9, 2009

By Elhassan Anas El-Sabry

Carbidae (or ground beetles) is the largest known family of beetles. It includes about 40,000 different species worldwide with sizes ranging between 4 & 20 mm. Their colors are mostly black with some metallic shades; however they include species of blue, green, red and yellow reflections or even a combinativ6-2on between all of this. Their colors appear mainly on their outer pair of wings (elytra) which in its place protects the second pair of wings that allows beetles to fly. Therefore, beetles have to first open their elytra, use their antennae to detect air current and finally stretch the inner wings to fly.

Most ground beetles hibernate as adults and start to reproduce in spring or early summer. They usually die off after that and a new generation appears. There are many places that are suitable habitats for ground beetles. They live in forests, woodlands, grasslands, agricultural land or even in our houses. Due to the diversity of their habitats, ground beetles have a significant dissimilarity in connection with food habits. Most of them are omnivorous, and so, caterpillars, snails, slugs, dead remains of insects and even other kinds of beetles can be parts of their diet as well as vegetable matter like fungi, fruit, nectar and pollen. Some species also feed on wood, leather or cloth.

Sight and smell are ground beetles’ developed senses. They can smell using antennae and hear by feeling vibrations using sensory hairs. When danger is detected, they produce a highly irritant volatile fluid. Others produce a squeaky buzzing sound or use their well-developed mandibles. However, they are not known to bite people.

It might be quite useful to have some ground beetles around as they help in natural control of many garden and crop pests. In addition, they feed on larvae of harmful insects inside houses. Therefore, extensive attack on them using insecticides is not recommended. So, before you kill a beetle you find in your home, think twice – is it a ground beetle? Do I need it in my backyard??



 Gordon, Ground Beetles: – Carabidae, 27-2-2007, 17-7-2007,

 Day, Eric, Ground Beetle, August 1996, 17-7-2007,

Kendall, David, Ground Beetles & Tiger Beetles, 6-6-2005, 17-7-2007,


About the Harmless Red Fox

October 9, 2009


By Mr. Richard Hoath

Before I begin this article I would like to quote from the New Campus page of the AUC website. The New Campus has been developed and, here goes, so that it “would achieve both harmony and diversity within a framework that unifies the essential components of a new university.” So far not too outlandish but six such components are listed including the “landscaping and gardens that embody the university’s commitment to environmental stewardship and extend the classroom into the natural world”.

So what has been the extent of this environmental stewardship? On campus, our environmental campus, a Red Fox was seen and photographed and rather than celebrate our stewardship, security was called and chased and harried the hapless creature across campus trying to get it into a box and then who knows what the animals fate might have been after, as the Caravan reported “scaring students and faculty, while managing to evade dozens of security guards sent to chase it down”.

What a ludicrous and high-handed response. The Red Fox Vulpes vulpes is an opportunistic and highly successful species that has enjoyed a natural expansion in range in Egypt since the 1980s probably due to the expansion of development, and hence availability of food and water, along the Red Sea coast, Sinai and the Nile Valley and Delta. Elsewhere in its vast range over Europe, Asia and North Africa, and America too if the North American Red Fox is considered the same species, it enjoys a tolerant relationship with its human hosts. In my native UK it is welcomed as a piece of wild in the urban sprawl, something to be celebrated. My uncle has a Red Fox burrow (properly called an earth) beneath his garden shed in suburban Bristol – indeed Bristol is home to the longest continuous study of urban Red Foxes in the world.

Red Foxes are not angels. They are natural predators and do raid poultry farms and smallholdings. But I would like to think that AUC is not a poultry farm and as we all know there is precious little food here. The grounds of our New Campus have (supposedly) been landscaped as naturally as possible and hence it should be no surprise that the natural fauna should be present. Red Foxes represent no greater health threat than the cats on the Old Campus. Indeed in the latest incident the only people at risk would have been the security personnel trying to stuff the fox in a box. To anyone concerned please visit  The Fox Website for unbiased and accurate information about the Red Fox in an urban context. In the mean time let us celebrate the natural world on campus and exercise this much vaunted “environmental stewardship”.