Sociality in lizards: family structure in free-living King's Skinks Egernia kingii from southwestern Australia

C. Masters, R. Shine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
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King's Skinks Egernia kingii are large viviparous scincid lizards from southwestern Australia. Although some other species within the genus Egernia are known to exhibit complex sociality, with long-term associations between adults and their offspring, there are no published records of such behaviour for E. kingii. Ten years' observations on a single family of lizards (a pair of adults plus six successive litters of their offspring) in a coastal suburban backyard 250 km south of Perth also revealed a very stable adult pair-bond in this species. The female produced litters of 9 to 11 offspring in summer or autumn at intervals of one to three years. In their first year of life, neonates lived with the adult pair and all the lizards basked together; in later years the offspring dispersed but the central shelter-site contained representatives of up to three annual cohorts as well as the parents. Adults tolerated juveniles (especially neonates) and their presence may confer direct parental protection: on one occasion an adult skink attacked and drove away a tigersnake Notechis scutatus that ventured close to the family's shelter-site. Although our observations are based only on a single pair of lizards and their offspring, they provide the most detailed evidence yet available on the complex family life of these highly social lizards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-380
Number of pages4
JournalAustralian Zoologist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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  • Behaviour
  • Egernia kingii
  • Lizard
  • Parental care
  • Reptile
  • Scincidae
  • Social organisation


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