Nature Profiles

Lizards of the Mount Lofty Ranges

 

My 'local' lizards

I was fortunate enough to live next door to Black Hill and Morialta Conservation Parks in the Adelaide Hills.  Both of them have plenty of lizards scurrying about in the warmer months, and are good places to get to know the common Mount Lofty Ranges species.  The lizards in this first section weren't all photographed at Black Hill or Morialta, but I did see them all there at one time or another!

Ctenophorus decresii (Tawny Dragon)

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Female, Morialta CP, Adelaide Hills

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Male (non-breeding colouration), Black Hill CP, Adelaide Hills

This little dragon is virtually endemic to the Mount Lofty and Flinders Ranges, although its range just extends into far western NSW, where it is considered endangered.  Flinders Ranges lizards have a more reddish colouration than the Mount Lofty Ranges animals. 

The Tawny Dragon is easily spotted along trails in rocky areas of Adelaide Hills given its habit of perching conspicuously to bask or chase away other intruding dragons!  In spring the males develop wonderful bright blue breeding colours on their throats and lips. 

C.decresii is the most cold-tolerant memeber of the genus - all the others are found in warmer, drier habitats, such as semi-arid mallee.  You can see some other species in the Reptiles of the Eyre Peninsula section of the site.

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Very young juvenile, Morialta CP, Adelaide Hills

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Female, South Para River, Adelaide Hills

 

 

Liopholis whitii (White's Skink)

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This engaging little skink is pretty much the commonest reptile seen in Black Hill CP, at least in my experience (where all 3 of the following photos were taken).  They're sociable creatures, and I remember sitting and watching a colony of half a dozen or so of these lizards go about their daily business.  They soon got used to my presence and scurried around my feet looking for insects, or perched on rocks next to me, surveying their kingdom for intruders. 

White's Skink is a common species in south-eastern Australia.  The Mount Lofty Ranges population is disjunct, along with isolated populations on Kangaroo Island, and smaller islands of the Eyre Peninsula.  Oddly, there is also a very isolated population in Mutawintji NP in far north-western NSW (along with an endangered population of C. decresii). 

White's Skink was recently transferred from Egernia to the resurrected genus Lipholis.  As with other Egernia / Liopholis skinks, pattern and colouration can vary, even within local populations, as the photos below illustrate.

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L. whitii cautiously looking out from burrow, Black Hill CP

 

 

Ctenotus robustus (Eastern Striped Skink)

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Onkaparinga River NP

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South Para River, Adelaide Hills

These fast-moving lizards are common in the hills, and often seen running way from oncoming reptile photographers!  I managed to stalk this basking animal along the South Para River, one of my favourite reptile spots. 

This species is the most cold-tolerant Ctenotus - most of the hundred or so species are arid desert-dwellers or species of the monsoonal eucalypt woodlands of the tropical north. 

C. robustus is the only Ctenotus found in the Adelaide Hills.

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Pogona barbata (Eastern Bearded Dragon)

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This very well-known lizard is a common species from the southern Eyre Peninsula in SA, all the way eastwards around the coast to Cairns in Qld; it is even seen in suburban gardens.  

A fellow walker pointed this one out to me in Morialta CP in the Adelaide Hills.  It allowed a very close approach, perhaps hoping I'd be too terrified by its threat display to come any closer!

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Christinus marmoratus (Marbled Gecko)

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Juvenile

Marbled Geckos are one the commonest lizards in the Adelaide Hills, including around houses and in gardens. 

Like other geckos, they can change the tone of their colouraton to adapt to different light levels.  The tiny juvenile was discovered under a garden rock and changed from very dark grey to pale grey in aroung 20 minutes once exposed to the light.

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Juvenile, showing dark colouration

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Adult, hunting at night on the wall of my house

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Tiny baby discovered at night - note the translucent head and body

 

 

Hemiergis decresiensis ssp. continentis

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Sandy Creek CP, Adelaide Hills

This tiny lizard is very common in the Adelaide Hills but rarely seen unless looked for, as it it largely fossorial.  Like other fossorial skinks, the limbs are very reduced and the body scales are smooth and glossy to help it move through soil and leaf litter. 

On the Adelaide Plains and along the sandy coast H. decresiensis is replaced by the equally common H. peronii (see below). 

There are four subspecies of H. decresiensis; only continentis occurs in mainland SA, and ssp. decresiensis is endemic to Kangaroo Island.

 

 

Lampropholis guichenoti (Grass Skink)

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Baby L. guichenoti rescued from my bathroom!, Montacute, Adelaide Hills

The Grass Skink is ubiquitous in the Adelaide Hills, and is often the most commonly seen lizard in eucalypt woodland and rural gardens.  I spent many a happy half-hour sitting on my porch watching these little brown skinks scurry around hunting down insects.

 

 

Tiliqua rugosa (Shingleback)

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Sandy Creek CP, Adelaide Hills

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Shingleback threat posture, Onkaparinga River NP, McLaren Vale

The shingleback, or sleepy lizard, as many Australians call it, is one of the most familiar lizards to 'normal' (i.e. non-reptile enthusiast!) Australians.  In the spring, these lizards seem to be everywhere as the males seek out females.  These lizards mate for life, and couples can often be seen following each other along roadsides, and even across freeways.  Sadly, many of these slow-moving skinks become casualties.  For some reason, a minority of people even go out of their way to run over the lizards.  Shinglebacks lead an enigmatic lifestyle; they are almost never seen after their spring mating until the following spring.

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Shingleback feeding on Grevillea lavandulacea flowers, Sandy Creek CP

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Sandy Creek CP, Adelaide Hills

 

 

Lizards from other parts of the Mount Lofty Ranges

These lizards were photographed away from Montacute, in other areas of the Adelaide Hills.  As you go north, towards the Barossa Valley, the climate becomes drier, and a different set of reptiles is to be found.  South, towards Mt Lofty, the climate becomes cooler and wetter, with another diverse set of reptiles calling the area home.

Egernia striolata (Tree Skink)

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Despite its common name, I have yet to see one of these lizards on a tree trunk.  In the places I have watched them, they are invariably seen perched on rocks keeping a lookout, or crouching in crevices to hide from danger.  Like other Egernia spp, they are very engaging to watch.  They live in colonies, so seeing one means that there will invariably be others nearby. 

These specimens were all photographed at one of my favourite haunts, the South Para River, just north of Para Wirra RP in the Adelaide Hills. 

The Mount Lofty Ranges respresent the western limit of this species' distribution (although it does extend slightly onto the Eyre Peninsula), where they favour dry rocky habitats - you can see photos of the species from the Flinders Ranges here.  The Tree Skink is a common species in much of eastern Australia.

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Juvenile E. striolata exploring its territory

 

 

Underwoodisaurus millii (Barking Gecko)

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There are only two species in this genus, characterised by their large heads and chunky carrot-shaped tails. 

The Barking Gecko is common across southern continental Australia, and does live up to its common name, although this individual had taken a vow of silence! 

Mark Hutchinson uncovered it for me under a rock slab in Onkaparinga River NP.

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Eulamprus quoyii (Eastern Water Skink)

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As its name suggests, this fairly large, beautifullly-marked golden skink is at the western limit of its range in the Adelaide Hills.  Primarily a species of coastal Qld and NSW, its distribution follows the course of the Murray-Darling River system all the way to the Adelaide Hills. 

This population in the Torrens Gorge lives in a idyllic spot, with little cascades, beautiful rock boulders and towering hillsides.  I love going to see them, although it's always a shame to see their home 'decorated' with new pieces of graffiti from local vandals.  As implied by their common name, the lizards are happy in water, and will jump in to swim away from threats.

 

 

Lerista bougainvillii

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The sharply-marked body pattern of this southern Lerista makes it easy to identify. 

I uncovered it under a rock in Warren Conservation Park in the Adelaide Hills, where presumably these lizards are common, but their fossorial lifestyle means they are rarely seen.   It's a poor photo, but illustrates well the temperament of these feisty little skinks.  So far, this is the only reptile I have ever been bitten by! 

There are many Lerista species, all with the same basic body layout, but with differing numbers of toes, fingers and head scales.  Most Leristas are lizards of warmer parts of Australia, and this is the only member of the genus that can live as far south as Tasmania.

 

 

 

Aprasia striolata (Lined Worm-lizard)

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Para Wirra RP, Adelaide Hills

The worm-lizards are legless cousins of the geckos.  In line with this they share many pf the same traits, including primarily nocturnal behaviour, and the ability to squeak if threatened!  Their legless bodies are adapted to a subterranean life, where they feed on ant eggs, larvae and pupae. 

I uncovered this one under a stone, and after checking it wasn't a baby Brown Snake (longitudinal lines instantly prove this), I grabbed it before it dashed off down an ant tunnel.

 

 

Pseudemoia entrecasteuxii (Southern Grass Skink)

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This lizard is much more common further south-east, and can be easily seen along the southern coast of Victoria in coastal heathland and grassland.  In South Australia its distribution becomes very patchy towards Adelaide.  I saw these at Mt Compass Wetland, on the Fleurieu Peninsula, where they were scurrying around on the wooden boardwalk, ready to make a quick jump into the undergrowth if I walked too close! 

Thanks to Mark Hutchinson for the identification.

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Acritoscincus duperreyi (Eastern Three-lined Skink)

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Cleland CP, Adelaide Hills

It's a poor photo, but all I could manage with this secretive little lizard.  The broad black lateral stripe topped by a thin white stripe, and the narrow single dorsal stripe are diagnostic. 

Acritoscincus is a very small genus, with only three species - this one, which is widespread in southern SA, Victoria, NSW and Tasmania, A. platynotum, which found on the east coast of Australia, and A. trilineatus, which has the most restricted range of the three, in south-western WA, with a small disjunct population on the Eyre Peninsula. 

Thanks to Mark Hutchinson for the identification.

 

 

Lizards of the Burra Region

I met up with Aaron Fenner, a postgraduate student studying a poulation of the endangered Pygymy Blue-tongue (Tiliqua adelaidensis).  The area has few remaining natural grasslands due to much of the land's conversion for agriculture, which is one reason why the PB is so endangered.  In the area we searched, there were plenty of lizards.  The commonest were Delma molleri and Ctenophorus decresii, but we saw some other interesting things, and I'm really grateful to Aaron for taking the time to go herping with me.

Tiliqua adelaidensis (Pygmy Blue-tongue)

 

The Pygymy Blue-tongue leads an odd life, living in vertical holes made by local trapdoor spiders.  Without the spiders, these lizards can't exist.  They emerge from the holes to catch prey, and then scurry back down to safety, since the open grassland habitat offers no hiding place above ground. 

The Burra lizards were filmed for an episode of BBC TV's 'Life in Cold Blood' with David Attenborough.  These lizards were once much more widespread, as the Latin name suggests.  Sadly they have been extinct in the Adelaide area for a long time.  Indeed, the species was thought to be totally extinct until 1992, when a population was rediscovered near Burra.

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Delma molleri

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Like many Australian legless lizards, Delma molleri superficially resembles the a venomous Brown Snake, presumably as an evolved form of self-defence. 

Legless lizards can usually be quickly distinguished visually, however, by their short bodies and long, thinner tails (snakes have long bodies and short tails).  On closer inspection, features such as external ear openings, a rounder lizard-like head, different belly scalation, and a non-forked tongue will make a legless lizard obvious, but to a beginner like me it took a bit of courage to make a grab for a small fleeing brown 'snake / lizard' without being certain of what you would get!

 

 

Aprasia pseudopulchella (Flinders Worm-lizard)

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I was lucky to see this rare South Australian endemic lizard, although Aaron told me it appears to be relatively common in the PB study area grasslands. 

On account of its limited distribution in a fairly intensively farmed region it is classed as a Vulnerable species, and is on the IUCN Red List.

 

 

Hemiergis peronii ssp. peronii

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This is the coastal cousin of H. decresiensis pictured above.  They're cute-looking lizards, with a distinctively more blocky head than their relatives in the Hills.  I uncovered this one under a sheet of discarded tin north of Adelaide.  Sorry about the awful blue cast on the photo - I had to take it in the shade! 

There are two subspecies of H. peronii, with tridactyla being found only on the south-west coast of WA.  The more common ssp. peroniii can be found along the southern coast of WA all the way to far south-western Victoria, although it is absent from the Nullarbor Plain.

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Tiliqua scincoides ssp. scincoides (Eastern Blue-tongue)

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I rescued this great lizard from the road near Tolderol GR.  It seemed pretty grateful too and is the most placid wild lizard I have ever held.  When I put it down in the safety of some grass it kept trying to scratch the left side of is head.  I picked it up again to investigate, and noticed it had a prickly grass seed wedged between its eyelid and the surrounding scales.  The lizard allowed me to pull the seed out, and wandered off in total confort when I released it again.

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Menetia greyii

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Among the smallest lizards in Australia, this common species can be found across virtually the whole of Australia (it is also the only Menetia in South Australia). 

I found this one under a discarded sheet of tin in Innes National Park.

 

 

Morethia obscura

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Ferries MacDonald CP, SE of Adelaide

This drab-looking lizard is very common in South Australia, and is often the most frequently-seen diurnal lizard in mallee areas. 

In areas south-east of Adelaide where this lizard was photographed, the only other species are M. adelaidensis and M. boulengeri, which are both more distinctively marked, but to be certain, close examination of the supraciliary scales is necessary.