Life history and ecology of the elegant snake-eyed skink (Cryptoblepharus pulcher) in south-eastern Australia

David A. Pike*, Elizabeth A. Roznik, Jonathan K. Webb, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Detailed information on life history and ecology is essential for successful conservation and management. However, we have relatively little detailed data on the life history and ecology of most small lizard species, relative to other vertebrates, especially those that have undergone recent taxonomic changes. We studied the ecology of the elegant snake-eyed skink (Cryptoblepharus pulcher), a lizard that occurs on trees, fences, walls, and rock outcroppings in eastern Australia that spans temperate to tropical environments. In our temperate-zone study population living in natural habitat, individuals are active year-round, and gravid females were found during the months of September through December. Sexual maturity is reached in 12 months, lifespan is at least three years, and clutch size is typically two eggs. In laboratory incubation experiments, larger eggs were more likely to hatch. Low incubation temperatures (averaging 23 ± 7.5°C versus high temperatures averaging 26 ± 7.5°C) increased incubation duration significantly (range 56-72 days versus 40-51 days) and reduced the body size of hatchlings significantly (17.8 mm versus 18.7 mm snout-vent length). Skinks sheltered beneath small rocks that were not shared simultaneously with predatory snakes, and that reached average temperatures that were up to 3°C warmer during the day than unused rocks. Preferred microhabitats include substrates of rock or soil, and the largest rocks were occasionally shared by up to four individuals of all body size/sex combinations (5.8% of observations were shared, 30.2% of individual rocks were shared). Our study expands upon knowledge of the widespread genus Cryptoblepharus by providing detailed life history and ecological information on C. pulcher that can serve as a baseline for future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-58
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Journal of Zoology
Volume67
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cryptoblepharus virgatus
  • food web
  • habitat selection
  • lizard
  • rock crevice
  • rocky habitat
  • Scincidae
  • shelter
  • thermal regime
  • vertebrate prey

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