Two new lizard species discovered in Australia27/12/2012 14:33:01 Two new lizard species discovered in the Townsville area of Queensland
December 2012. The Elegant Rainbow Skink and the Orange-flanked Rainbow Skink were originally thought to be members of the Open-litter Rainbow Skink species, but detailed work has revealed that they are separate species.
Dr Conrad Hoskin from JCU's School of Marine and Tropical Biology, and Patrick Couper from the Queensland Museum discovered the two new species. "Both species are small skinks belonging to the genus Carlia, a diverse group of skinks in tropical Australia," Dr Hoskin said.
"The species names (the Elegant Rainbow Skink - Carlia decora - and the Orange-flanked Rainbow Skink - Carlia rubigo - are in reference to the bright colours sported by breeding males of each species; ‘decora' means ‘beautiful' in Latin, with males of that species marked with vivid orange and blue, while ‘rubigo' translates to ‘rust', referring to the rusty orange colour of males of that species."
"It is one of the most common skinks in Townsville gardens and would be familiar to many Townsville residents as the small skink that scurries away into the garden bed. However, the Orange-flanked Rainbow Skink is found in drier areas of eastern and Central Queensland, preferring open forests and rocky areas. It is not found right in Townsville but lives on the rocky ranges around Townsville like Magnetic Island, Cape Cleveland and Herveys Range. The best place to see it around Townsville is Magnetic Island, where it is the most common lizard."
Third new species
TheWhitsunday Rainbow Skink is only found on Whitsunday, Hook, Hayman and Lindeman Islands. The species name ‘inconnexa' means ‘unjoined', in reference to the isolation of this skink on islands.
The three new species resulted from a detailed study of the widespread Open-litter Rainbow Skink (Carlia pectoralis).
"It just goes to show that we still haven't discovered all the diversity that's out there, even in a fairly well known group like lizards in a fairly well studied area like eastern Australia," he said.
"It would be like calling the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Western Grey Kangaroo and Red Kangaroo one species, the ‘Kangaroo'," he said.
"In the case of these skinks, one of them isn't even the closest relative of the others, it just happens to have scale characteristics that meant it was incorrectly lumped in with Carlia pectoralis when the original taxonomy was done. It is exciting that in this day and age we can realise that the most common skink in Townsville gardens is in fact a new species that needed a scientific name. When we don't even have the taxonomy of common backyard creatures sorted out, it shows just how much undescribed diversity is still out there to be discovered."
Dr Hoskin said the new lizards were described and given scientific names in a recent paper published in the international journal Zootaxa.