250/250: Lampropholis amicula

This is the third story relating to my quest to take my lifetime list of Australian reptile species to 250 before the end of 2009. For previous instalments, read the introduction, the first story, the second story and the second-and-a-half story.

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After the success I had with finding species 248 and 249, the dismal failure of my attempt to find species 250 was a rude awakening. I knew the first two were too good to be true. Not to worry. There were still a fair few local species that I had a good chance of finding. Unfortunately, if I wanted to keep my inheritance I’d have to deal with the little annoyance that is Christmas. Family committments took up Christmas Day, plus Boxing Day and the un-named following day (known, this year, simply as Sunday). During this time I did manage to see some eastern water dragons (Physignathus lesueurii lesueurii) and a saw-shelled turtle (Wollumbinia latisternum), but neither of these were new species for me. When Christmas was over, my search would have to continue.

Today I had planned to drive north of Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast. There are a few spots up there that I’ve been meaning to check out for a few interesting species. But a trip to the Bureau of Meteorology’s website quickly put those plans on hold. There was a lot of rain in the areas I wanted to visit. Not just rain, but large thunderstorms by the look of it. I could have always driven up there and hoped the weather was better when I arrived, but I didn’t really want to waste two hours driving up and two hours driving back down. Today the Sunshine Coast was not living up to its name.

While biding my time and looking at random files on my computer, I came across a journal article describing five new species of skink. One of the newly described species was Lampropholis amicula. This was one of the species I thought I might be able to find locally, but I still thought I’d have to drive for an hour or so to get to some suitable habitat. After reading the article I was surprised to learn that part of the type series of this species had been collected in a patch of bush just around the corner from me. Though it was raining at my place, it wasn’t pouring. I scrapped my plans to go to the (decidedly lacking in) Sunshine Coast and headed to Daisy Hill Conservation Park.

Daisy Hill Conservation Park
Daisy Hill Conservation Park sign (with a reflective self-portrait as a little present for the ladies).

I arrived at the park just after noon. It was still drizzling, but the sun was out and the air temperature was OK. National Parks (and other bits of crown estate, such as this Conservation Park) in Queensland are free to enter, unlike parks in Western Australia that cost money. But it seems that the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management is trialling a pay-to-enter system of a different nature at Daisy Hill, with a large deposit box set up in the car park.

A new payment method?
Entry into some Australian national parks costs a small amount of money, usually deposited in a box based on the honesty system. It seems the Queensland Department of Environment and Management is trialling a different payment system.

Unfortunately I was fresh out of horse manure, so I just sneaked into the park without paying. I chose a walking track that went from an open forest, down a slope into a moister gully. I figured my chances of seeing my quarry would improve if I searched a variety of habitats.

Walking track
A walking track through Daisy Hill Conservation Park. Habitat for Lampropholis delicata, Lampropholis amicula, Calyptotis scutirostrum

As I expected, there were heaps of Lampropholis delicata running around. Their larger size and the sharp delineation between their dark upper flank and pale lower flank easily separate them from L. amicula. The next reptile I saw was a scute-snouted calyptotis (Calyptotis scutirostrum) moving around a large fallen log.

Habitat
Habitat for Lampropholis delicata, Lampropholis amicula, Calyptotis scutirostrum

Scute-snouted calyptotis (Calyptotis scutirostrum)
Scute-snouted calyptotis (Calyptotis scutirostrum)

As I walked down to the bottom of the track, I saw more Lampropholis scurrying around. Some of them were small enough to be L. amicula, but I didn’t manage to look at them close enough to identify them to species level. They were moving through leaf litter that was covered with a creeping plant. The plant made it impossible to follow the skinks. I reached the bottom of the track and headed back up the way I had come. It was starting to rain harder now, so I was going to call it quits and head back to the car. As I walked up the slope and left the moister gully and re-entered the open forest, the creeping plant became thinner on the ground. I saw a little skink, and this time I was able to creep close and keep an eye on it in the clearer leaf litter. I took some pics, including some close up head shots on which I could count the supraciliary scales – Lampropholis amicula have five, whereas the other sympatric species of Lampropholis have seven. Sure enough, a close look at the photos on the back of my camera revealed that I’d just seen my 250th Australian reptile species. What started as an unpromising day had finished as a day to remember!

Friendly sunskink (Lampropholis amicula)
Friendly sunskink (Lampropholis amicula)

Friendly sunskink (Lampropholis amicula)
Friendly sunskink (Lampropholis amicula)

Here ends my story and my quest. Keep an eye on this blog over the next year as I try to get up to 300 species before 2010 comes to an end.

Stewart

About Stewart Macdonald

I'm a wildlife ecologist living and working in Queensland, Australia. I spend most of my time in the bush finding and photographing wildlife.
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4 Responses to 250/250: Lampropholis amicula

  1. Ryan Mclean says:

    Well done Stewart! All that driving and number 250 turns up in your own backyard. Good luck on getting to 300.

  2. Murray Lord says:

    Do you know what the most reptile species anyone has seen in Australia? I know the numbers for birds and mammals, and have some idea re frogs, but no idea re reptiles. Maybe there should be a total vertebrates list.

  3. Alex Dudley says:

    I have found over 350 Aussie reptiles so far (not counting undescribed species)- but I have paid for it with my youth, of which I have little left.. Well done with this hysteric milestone.

  4. Stewart says:

    Hi Murray and Alex,

    350! I guess that’s my goal for 2011. I don’t know what the highest number would be. I guess the likes of Steve Wilson and Gerry Swan would have seen a fair few across the country.