And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him, In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wonderous glory of the everlasting stars.

Banjo Paterson (1889)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Skinks - The LBJs of the reptile world

Some people may say that skinks are boring, small brown lizards that run off before you even got a good look at them, but skinks are wonderful animals that often pose a great challenge in identification, similar to the little brown jobs in birds. In Australia there are more than 370 species of skink alone, with many species looking very similar and great variation within a species as well, so as a zoologist you often have to work hard to get the correct id.

The days may have been a little cool for skinks at Wodgina, but we still managed to get a good range. Here are some of them. (Sorry about all the hand photos, but even on a cold day skinks tend to shoot off as soon as you put them on the ground!)

Ctenotus grandis

One of the common big skinks at Wodgina was this Ctentus grandis, sometimes called a Grand Ctenotus. It's big (up to 400mm long) and has white flecks in vertical lines on the sides.

The colourful back has narrow dark stripes.

The subspecies here is called titan and is the biggest in Western Australia.

A fantastic robust lizard with a cute face.

Carlia munda

Carlia are called Rainbow Skinks due to the colourful sheen they have in sunlight (such as this one) and most species of the 32 species are in northern Australia. The only one of this area is Carlia munda with the white lower lip.

Interesting little lizards that often sit near you waving their tails, hoping that you stir up some insects while you work.


Ctenotus helenae

These Ctenotus helenae are usually very plain brown skinks but are sometimes difficult to id, as some have patterns and some don't. In the future with further research they may be split into two species.

This one has a some pattern on his back.

Skinks (and other animals) are almost impossible to catch by hand when they have warmed up, but are easily caught with our 50 metre trap system of fences, pits and funnels. A trap site will usually have two trap systems.

Ctenotus serventyi

 Another hard skink to id which was found on sandy shrublands. We believe this one to be a young Ctenotus serventyi.

Narrow-banded Sand-swimmer

These sand adapted skinks known as Eremiascincus fasciolatus, were often found in sandy river systems.

Great camo on the sand.

There are two species of sand-swimmers that look similar, this one with lots of narrow bands, while the other one also found in this area has fewer broad bands.

They are wonderful animals that are so adapted to the sand environment, with smooth torpedo bodies and a strong angled head. Often as soon as you put them on the sand, with one flick of their tails they have disappeared below.

Morethia ruficauda

These colourful little Morethia ruficauda skinks are usually found at rocky areas in northern Australia. It's interesting that a number of small skinks have this wonderful pattern. Why? Do the stripes hide the main body while the red tail which can be lost, attracts the attention of predators?


This subspecies in the north-west is called exquisita, you can see why. A beautiful little skink.

Leopard Ctenotus

One of my favourite skinks, Ctenotus pantherinus, the beautiful Leopard Skink.

He is fairly common in spinifex areas, but I think he must be the most beautiful big skink in Australia.


Wilma said...

Fantastic collection of skinks here, Richard. And what a rnage of sizes, too. I was wondering about the short face of the sand swimmer and then read your text explaining how it can disappear by swimming down into the sand. Super photos.


Penny said...

Love skinks and this is one of the best sets of photos I have seen.

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

A very nice selection there Richard - well impressed.

Duncan said...

Wonderful post Richard.

Damien said...

Awesome pics!! Might want to check that C. munda. almost looks like a C. tricantha as it looks like it has three keels on each scale. still awesome :)