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New Lizard Discovered in Australia and Threatened by Incoming Housing Development

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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coastal skinkA tiny new lizard species has been discovered in Western Australia, and just in time: its only known habitat is already being destroyed.

The six-centimeter-long coastal plains skink (Ctenotus ora) lives in the sand dunes of the Swan Coastal Plain, which starts about 70 kilometers south of Perth. According to the researchers from Australian National University (ANU) who discovered the lizard, the area where it was found is being developed for new residential housing. The species specializes in sand dunes, so it lacks the ability to move and adapt to a new habitat.

“To find something as yet undetected, so close to one of the country’s largest cities, demonstrates how much we’ve still got to discover,” Geoffrey Kay, an ecologist from ANU’s Fenner School of Environment & Society, said in a prepared release. “Only a few of these lizards have ever been found in the wild, so while we know numbers are low, we are not sure of the exact size of the remaining population.”

As detailed in a paper published in Zootaxa on July 17 (preview), Kay and ANU biology professor Scott Keogh sampled the DNA of all previously known Ctenotus species in southwestern Australia to come up with what they called “a comprehensive morphological dataset” for the regional branch of the genus. The process allowed them to describe the new species, which had not been previously recognized. Their paper describes it as smaller than the region’s other skinks, with a darker coloration and a continuous white line down its back and side.

The authors are now calling for immediate steps to conserve the newly discovered skink before its habitat disappears forever.

Photo by Brad Maryan courtesy of Australian National University

John R. Platt About the Author: Twice a week, John Platt shines a light on endangered species from all over the globe, exploring not just why they are dying out but also what's being done to rescue them from oblivion. Follow on Twitter @johnrplatt.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. dbtinc 10:56 am 10/30/2012

    Evolution – it’s a bi†çh if you’re on the wrong side … farwell …

    Link to this
  2. 2. vapur 2:39 pm 10/31/2012

    “Only a few of these lizards have been found so we know their numbers are low?”

    Outright lie does not a true statement make.

    Link to this
  3. 3. John R. Platt in reply to John R. Platt 1:49 pm 11/2/2012

    Nor does calling something a lie make it so.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 1:05 pm 11/5/2012

    Alert: vapur is a troll and an Extinctionist. I recommend that he be deleted immediately.

    Link to this
  5. 5. John R. Platt in reply to John R. Platt 1:14 pm 11/5/2012

    Ah, he’s free to fly his freak flag until he gets too unruly. But I’ve got my eye on him.

    Link to this

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