Nature Profiles

Reptiles of the Eyre Peninsula

 

Reptiles of Pinkawillinie Conservation Park

I volunteered on a survey project looking at mallee reptiles on the Eyre Peninsula in January 2009.  It gave me the chance to see some creatures I would never normally get the opportunity to, and I met some really nice people too.  You can read more about the project here.  During my time on the peninsula I took the chance to visit the two national parks next to Port Lincoln.  The coastline is stunningly beautiful, and I would recommend a visit to anyone!

Snakes

Contrary to my hopes, snakes were rarely seen during my time here!  There is a good range of species in the mallee, however, and it was good to see some of the nocturnal, fossorial species, which were seen fairly often in pitfall traps.

Brachyurophis semifasciatus (Southern Shovel-nosed Snake)

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brach

This attractive, harmless elapid was a regular species in pitfall traps during our week-long survey.  Although a venomous species, it is totally non-aggressive, hiding its head in your hand when held!  It feeds exculsively on reptile eggs. 

The species has a curious distribution, with a southern population extending from the Eyre Peninsula west to the Perth region in WA, and a disjunct population in north-western Qld.

brach

 

 

Ramphotyphlops bicolor (Dark-spined Blind Snake)

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Pretty much the only way to see Blind Snakes is through pitfall trapping.  They live almost all their lives underground where they feed on ant eggs and pupae. 

There are 42 species in Australia, with some only known from single specimens.  Their hidden lifestyles make the Blind Snakes among the most poorly-known vertebrates in Australia. 

When held, these snakes frequently cover themselves in a very nasty-smelling secretion which can stay on your hands for some time.

ramph

 

 

Lizards

Nephrurus stellatus (Starred Knob-tailed Gecko)

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n stell

There are two separate populations of this strange-looking gecko.  The eastern population occurs on the Eyre Peninsula, and a smaller western population is found inland in southern WA.

n stell

 

 

Lucasium damaeum (Beaded Gecko)

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This attractive little gecko is a widespread species in arid and semi-arid regions of southern Australia.  Like other geckoes in these hot habitats, it spends the day hiding in spider holes, emerging at night to hunt insects. 

This species was formerly known as Diplodactylus damaeus, but recent nomenclature changes have placed it in the genus Lucasium.

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Dorsal pattern

 

 

Liopholis inornata (Desert Skink)

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Formerly Egernia inornata, this robust skink is not exactly 'inornate' - its upper surfaces are an attractive pale pink. 

When 'rescued' from pitfall traps they can be quite excitable, putting up a vigorous struggle and not being afraid to bite!  Ordinarily they live in spinifex hummocks, emerging briefly to catch insect prey.

 

 

Ctenotus schomburgkii

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Ctenotus is a very important, and often abundant genus of lizards in semi-arid and arid regions of Australia.  Similarly, C.schomburgkii is a very widespread species, inhabiting just about the entire semi-arid and arid zone of the continent. 

The dorsal pattern of the lizard varies regionally, with eastern lizards having many more stripes.  In South Australia the colouration and pattern of this lizard is rather unique and it is not easily confused with other small Ctenotus.

cten

 

 

Ctenotus atlas

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ca

This boldly-patterned Ctenotus is another common spinifex-dweller on the Eyre Peninsula. 

The absence of blotches makes this lizard instantly recognisable (if you can get a good view!).  Sadly this lizard was a bit of a wriggler, which made my one-handed photography efforts rather poor!  Like all Ctenotus, they are built for running very fast to escape predators, and don't enjoy being grabbed by people!

ca

 

 

Lerista sp (distinguenda probably)

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Leristas are all rather similar small brownish stripy skinks, especially the species with 4 well-developed limbs. 

On the Eyre Peninsula  seven species are found (including L.bougainvillii, which is also found in the Adelaide Hills), and this one is either distinguenda or taeniata.  I've based my identification on the two broken dorsal stripes and greyish-brown rather than reddish-brown colour, but it's hard to be absolutely sure from these photos. 

Like all Leristas in my experience, they are pretty feisty and don't just sit in your hand and offer themselves for close examination!

ld

 

 


Ctenophorus fordi (Mallee Dragon)

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A classic mallee resident, this little dragon was one of the few lizards I saw by day in Pinkawillinie.  They are active predators, and I sat and watched this individual pursue and eat ants once it had grown used to my presence. 

C.fordi is an annual species in some places, with all adults dying in the autumn, and a totally new population emerging from eggs the following spring. 

Nationally, it is a fairly widespread species of southern arid and semi-arid regions from Western Australia to western NSW and Qld.

ford

 

 

Ctenophorus cristatus (Crested Dragon)

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ct

The Crested Dragon is a large, charismatic dragon, usually seen running away at high speed upright on its hind legs to the cover of nearby shrubs.  This has led to its other common name of the Bicycle Lizard! 

I managed to get these close-up photos because the cold lizard had just been released from an overnight stay in a canvas bag (notice the curled-up front toes) following its retrieval from a pitfall trap the day before.  Once it warmed up, it wasted no time in making a hasty escape!

 

 

Reptiles of Hincks Wilderness Protection Area (formerly Conservation Park)

Hincks WPA is another large mallee wilderness area, south-east of Lock and west of Cleve.  I stopped off there to check up on some of Annabel's catches, and was lucky enough to see some new reptiles for my 'life list'!

Diplodactylus calcicolus (South Coast Gecko)

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dc
Dorsal pattern

When I took these photos, this lizard was D.granariensis.  However, that species has been split into several 'new ones', most of which are geographically isolated from each other.  True D.granariensis is now an exclusively Western Australian species, with the old South Australian populations split into D.calcicolus, D.furcosus and D.wiru

Diplodactylus calcicolus is found along the south coast of Western Australia, and as far west as the Murray River mouth in South Australia.  As its Latin name suggests, it is a lizard of coastal limestone habitats. 

Like other geckoes its dorsal pattern is rather variable, and perhaps the most distinctive feature of this species is that it has a rather indistinct pattern, unlike the other Diplodactylus species found in its range. 

Thanks to Mark Hutchinson for identifying the 'new' species for me!

 

 

Aprasia inaurita (Red-tailed Worm-lizard)

ai

I love Aprasias, and this little individual put on a good show, repeatedly squeaking when held.  The sound is surprisingly loud for such a small creature. 

Like many Aprasias, this species has a limited geographical range and is found in mallee regions of SA, with small populations in far western NSW and a disjunct population in eastern WA.

 

 

Amphibolurus norrisi (Mallee Tree Dragon)

an

an

These elusive lizards are one of the study animals at Hincks.  When I visited, Annabel was lucky enough to have caught one that morning.  Despite several attempted escapes, I managed to make sure this lizard didn't end up roaming the countryside before the proper time - but only just!  

Amphibolurus is a small genus of Australian dragons, with just seven species.  Four are found in South Australia, but none are widespread,with two just entering the far northern corners of the state, and three - this species and the Nobbi Dragon and Jacky Lizard being found further south. 

A.norrisi is a specialist of southern mallee areas of coastal South Australia and adjacent states.

an

 

 

Ramphotyphlops bituberculatus (Prong-snouted Blind Snake)

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rb
tail end, with spine at tip

This is one of Australia's most widespread blind snakes, and is very easy to recognise - it has a distinctive snout that protudes markedly from the rest of the face (compare this with R.bicolor above, which only has a weakly protuding snout). 

Like other blind snakes, they don't bite, and holding one is rather like holding a large, dry worm.  Also like all blind snakes, their tail ends in a short spine which they use to gain a 'tailhold' when burrowing (see second photo on the left), which you will also discover if you hold one!

rb

 

 


 

Reptiles of Lincoln National Park

Ctenophorus fionni (Peninsula Dragon)

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female

The Peninsula Dragon is endemic to the Eyre Peninsula and its coastal islands, where it replaces the more easterly Tawny Dragon and north-easterly Red-barred Dragon. 

Although it looks very similar to drab individuals of the Tawny Dragon, it is the only dragon of the C.decresii species-group within its range.  Like the Tawny Dragon, this species basks conspicuously on rock outcrops where it can survey its territory.  The eroded limestone cliffs of Lincoln NP provide a perfect habitat, where the lizards can dash into the many crevices when danger approaches.

 

 

Pseudonaja inframacula (Peninsula Brown Snake)

psn

This member of the brown snake family is endemic to South Australia.  Its colouration is variable, this being a dark individual, and the species differs from other Eyre Peninsula brown snakes by small details (e.g. rostral scale size, mid-body scalation). 

Sadly this snake was killed not long before I came across it - hardly suprising given the speed that people drive their 4WDs along the dirt roads in Lincoln National Park (despite the signs to slow down for wildlife).

ps