Sunday, 17 January 2016

Creatures of the night

Burton's snake-lizard, Seven Hills.

Balmy mid-summer nights are a great time to spot reptiles in South-east Queensland, and some interesting sightings are happening at the moment.

Burton's snake-lizard, Seven Hills.
On a nocturnal walk through Seven Hills Bushland Reserve last week, I was delighted to find several Burton's snake-lizards (Lialis burtonis) scattered throughout the reserve.

This creature is a member of the Pygopodidae family, a collection of uniquely Australian and New Guinean legless lizards that are most closely related to geckos.

Because this species is found in a huge variety of habitats throughout almost the entire country, it exists in a spectacular range of colour forms and patterns that help it blend in to particular locations.

Last year for example, I found a pale whitish-grey morph that had been living in the sand dunes at Alexandra Headland, whereas these individuals on the stony slopes of Seven Hills are a richer brown colour.

Eastern stone gecko, Seven Hills.

Burton's snake-lizards prey almost exclusively on other lizards, potentially including the eastern stone gecko (Diplodactylus vittatus) I also found at Seven Hills on the same evening.

Robust velvet gecko, The Gap;
Photo by Dale Hughes.
The latter reptile was the first native gecko I have ever seen in the wild, though like most people in Brisbane, I am very familiar with the introduced Asian house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus).

Some South-east Queensland residents are still lucky enough to have native geckos living inside their homes, namely the robust velvet gecko (Oedura robusta).

Wild BNE Facebook fan Dale Hughes is one such lucky Brisbane resident, and he kindly shared with me a photo of a magnificent velvet gecko that he recently found in the bathroom of his home at The Gap.

Increasingly uncommon in suburbia thanks to competition with the introduced species, the Queensland Museum nevertheless reports that a large colony of these gorgeous reptiles still occurs at Kangaroo Point.

8 comments:

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    1. They are indeed! I felt very lucky to see them :)

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  2. It looks like you had a very successful nocturnal walk, Christian!

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    1. Yes, I couldn't believe my luck! Grinning from ear to ear all night, except when I walked into the spider webs :)

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  3. Hi Christian. The Seven Hills Reserve is behind the primary school I attended as a youngster and where I spent many an hour wandering the bush there. So nice to see those reptiles hanging on in suburbia.

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    1. Oh wow, I know how those early places live on so well in a naturalist's heart (mine is Tinchi Tamba - I grew up in Bracken Ridge). You were lucky to have Seven Hills as one of your places, it really is a beaut spot!

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  4. Our climate is too cold for geckos and we have only two lizards - Common and Sand and very few reptiles so I really look forward to visiting warmer climes to see a few.

    It is truly fascinating to see how a single species can adapt to their environment in tiny or even major ways by changing their colouration. There is the link between to becoming a new species?

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    1. Yes I don't recall seeing ANY reptiles in the UK when I lived there in fact!

      And yes, you're right about speciation beginning that way. The next thing that would have to happen is for the populations to become fragmented so that they couldn't interbreed, thereby preserving particular colours and adaptations.

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