18 November, 2023
Rare lizard sighted after 42 years
A RARE lizard that has eluded scientists for more than 40 years has been found living near Mt Surprise.
Earlier this year, scientists from Queensland Museum and James Cook University were tasked with the challenge of finding the elusive Lyon’s Grassland Striped Skink
Dr Andrew Amey from Queensland Museum Network, who led the expedition, said the goal was to find three species of skink which have very small distributions confined to the Mt Surprise area.
“These lizards are all hard to find and seldom seen. Two are part of a large group of skinks in the genus Lerista, which are only found in Australia and have adapted to sandy soils by reducing their limbs to essentially swim through the soil,” Dr Amey said.
“It shows that parts of Australia such as grasslands and open woodland that are grazed by cattle can still host important biodiversity.
“It was an exciting moment to find all three skinks, but to find the Lyon’s Grassland Striped Skink was an amazing discovery.”
JCU’s Associate Professor Conrad Hoskin, who was part of the survey team, said the rediscovery of the skink was a big step forward in its conservation.
“The skink was last seen in 1981 and was feared to be extinct. To find it again after 42 years, and at several different sites, is exciting. We now need to assess its full distribution and habitat requirements,” he said.
The other two skinks were the Limbless Fine-lined Slider, which is found in the Undara Volcanic National Park, and the Mt Surprise Slider, which was only known from one paddock.
The small distribution of the skinks makes them vulnerable to damaging events such as bushfires, drought, invasive weeds and disease. The Lyon’s Grassland Striped Skink was recently listed as Critically Endangered by the Queensland and Australian Governments in recognition of this.