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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Australia. The lizard hid from scientists for over 40 years

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A lizard from the skink family (Austroablepharus barrylyoni) was found in the Australian state of Queensland more than 40 years after the previous sighting. In addition, researchers managed to track down two other rare species. To properly protect these rare animals, further research on their populations is necessary.

Protecting some species can be quite a challenge. Animals living in hard-to-reach, desolate areas can easily escape scientists’ attention for many years. This happened in northeastern Australia, where researchers managed to observe animals that had been hiding from the human eye for decades.

Invisible for over 40 years

Australian scientists conducted research in the Mount Surprise region, located several hundred kilometers south of the city of Cairns. Although this area is relatively small, naturalists faced a significant challenge – they planned to find traces of three small species of animals from the skink family. These are lizards with elongated bodies and poorly developed or missing limbs.

The search bore fruit – researchers managed to find representatives of the species Lerista storri, Lerista ameles and, what turned out to be most exciting, Austroablepharus barrylyoni, because they were last seen in 1981. It was feared that they were extinct. Due to the fact that they only inhabit a small area where cattle graze, researchers were concerned about the fate of this species.

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– Finding all three skinks was an exciting moment, but found A. barrylyoni it turned out to be really special. All of these lizards are difficult to find and rare. Two species belong to the genus Leristafound only in Australia – said the head of the research team, Andrew Amey from the Queensland Museum.

A skink of the species Austroablepharus barrylyoniAngus Emmott

Rare and sensitive

As Amey explained, the discovery shows that even habitats under agricultural use, such as meadows and fields, can still harbor species that are key to maintaining biodiversity. The small range of skinks makes them vulnerable to harmful events such as bushfires, droughts and diseases.

The scientists’ next step will be further research on endangered species, which involves further field work.

– We need to know whether their population is healthy or declining. We can’t take effective action to protect them if we don’t know where they are and what threats affect them, Amey said.

Live Science, Queensland Museum

Main photo source: Angus Emmott

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