Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Skink for my list.

Further to my recent post on cold-blooded creatures, here is another one - a new species for my list here.

It goes under the unfortunate name of "Weasel Skink" (Saproscincus mustelina).
Click to enlarge image, and to read notes.
I had guessed the identity (from internet sources), but I sought confirmation before going public with the ID on this one, because it was sufficiently unusual that I did not want to get it wrong. I had no idea what its distribution is. Apparently it is recorded from the Illawarra Region. The only photos I could find of it came from the Victorian Museum, and several overseas-based herpetologists. One, at least, had photos of this species from the Blue Mountains (New South Wales).
The helpful people at the "Search and Discover" service of the Australian Museum (Sydney) came through with this advice:

Dear Denis, Thank you for your enquiry. The lizard is a Weasel Skink (Saproscincus mustelina) - a crepuscular species (active dawn and dusk but not at night or during the middle of the day) which is relatively common, but not often seen due to the hours it keeps. More information about it and the answer provided by our Herpetologist - can be found on the following answer and weblink:- "It is a Weasel Skink (Saproscincus mustelina) - the white tear-drop marking behind the eye is a good diagnostic feature for this species from other small skinks within its range.- Ross Sadlier" Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance. Kind regards, Martyn Robinson Naturalist

Unfortunatley, I had taken only a few images, and the Skink was very nervous, so I did not handle it, for fear that it might drop its tail. So I could only get "top down" views, as it had been trapped in a clear plastic fruit container. Consequently I missed the most diagnostic feature, a tear-drop mark below its eye.
The thing I noticed was the relative length of the tail to main body.

Apparently it is a question of knowing what to look for, much as with the Peron's Tree Frog, where one needs to looks for the yellow skin on the inside of the back legs. One needs to know what features to look for, and they are not always obvious.
The scales on this lizard's head are very distinctive
and along the body the scales are very fine.
In these images they appear slightly oily, but in fact they were not.
If you have some photos of an unknown or unusual creature, and wish to consult the Australian Museum staff, you can do so by sending them an email at: or phone: (02) 9320 6202.

My first email was wiped of its email attachments, but the staff sent me an email address where I could send them some images. That worked fine, and I was able to get an answer within the week.


Snail said...

Great find, Denis.

And aren't our museums a wonderful resource!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Bronwyn.
Trust a former Museum-dweller to plug Museums, but yes indeed, the "Search and Discover" service has helped me out greatly.
The Victorian Museum has more useful fact sheets, etc, than the Sydney mob, at least on reptiles, where their information is terrific, and accessible.
Sydney did good work with setting up the "Birds in Backyards" forum and website, which has now outgrown the Museum's resources and has been taken over by Birds Australia. But AusMus started it.

catmint said...

good to know about this Denis, because as you know unknown or unusual to me is definitely not the same as it is for you! cheers, catmint

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Catmint
The Museums provide a great resource, but of course one ought seek information from published sources first, before asking specific questions from their experts, who are employed as researchers primarily.
The "Museum Victorian" site has an excellent bioinformatics section
Scary name, but a great resource, especially for Victorians.
We fellow Bloggers are usually helpful too, you know.

Le Loup said...

We love seeing lizards about the garden, but they are so friendly that we have to be careful moving about and working in the garden.
I had to google Robertson to see where you were. A fair way from Armidale.
Regards, Le Loup.

Denis Wilson said...

Welcome Le Loup.
Glad you like your Lizards. I find them completely fascinating.
Other Bloggers ought visit Le Loup's blog for a different view of life in the 21st Century.
He says: "I am a writer, book author,18th century living historian, historical trekker, woodsman, primitive skills instructor. I am the founder member of The New England Colonial Living History Group. I have been living in the woods for about 30 years.
An interesting combination of old skills and new skills (blogging).

Le Loup said...

Thanks for the plug Denis, much appreciated. Good to find another Aussie blog.