Rare Australian skink seems unaffected by fires30/08/2013 09:47:23 Guthega Skink gives up a few of its secrets
July 2013. A threatened species of alpine skink has given up some big secrets on how they survive bushfires that will provide vital information to help its survival. The Australian Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) has partnered with La Trobe University to uncover some of the secrets behind the survival of one of the Australian State of Victoria's rarest reptiles.
La Trobe University zoology student Zak Atkins has been studying the nationally endangered Guthega Skink (Liopholis guthega) in the isolated rocky outcrops of the Bogong High Plans. The Guthega Skink is listed as Threatened under Victoria's Flora and Fauna (FFG) Act.
2003 wild fires
"Wildfire had been thought to be the biggest immediate threat to the survival of this species, given their restriction to high altitude habitats and small geographic range. However, the Guthega Skink probably survives fire by sheltering in burrows in rocky areas. I discovered that burrows in areas that were burned in 2003 were more likely to be under rocks than shrubs, with burrows under shrubs more common in unburnt areas. Skinks inhabiting burrows under rocks were more likely to be protected during the fire."
Little difference in populations between burnt and unburnt areas
Climate change threat
Senior Scientist at DEPI's Arthur Rylah Institute Nick Clemann said: "Zac Atkins' research made a vital contribution towards conservation planning for the Guthega Skink."
"This is the first detailed study of this species' biology and ecology in Victoria. The knowledge gained from this study has taught us a great deal about the Guthega Skink's diet, foraging behaviour, reproduction and vital habitat attributes," Mr Clemann said.
"This will help us to protect their habitat and it also contributes valuable information that will help with the captive program at Healesville Sanctuary, where the Guthega Skink is one of Zoos Victoria's ‘Fighting Extinction' species."