Last weekend the Biodiversity Up Close events focused on all things scaly. The events were kicked off by Dr Mark Hutchinson, Senior Researcher and Reptile Curator at the South Australian Museum, who presented at the well attended Millicent Field Naturalists monthly meeting. Mark provided a fascinating look at one of Millicent’s most elusive and rare species, the Eared Worm-lizard.
The Eared Worm-lizard is very small cryptic lizard, although at first glance you might assume that it is a snake. However, a closer look and the presence of a fat gecko-type tongue, hind limb flaps (where the legs used to be), and the ability to drop its tail to escape a predator, tell you that it is in fact a lizard in snakes clothing! This little lizard lives in the leaf litter and top soil, so is very rarely seen. Its more common counterpart the Striped Worm-lizard is common in the South East and many people may have come across them when digging in sandy soil.
The Eared Worm Lizard was originally thought to only occur in the Victorian Mallee near the Big Desert, so it was a big surprise when it was first identified in the much wetter and colder South East Region. So far we only know the Eared Worm-lizards from seven sites along the Reedy Creek Range near Millicent in South Australia.
On the Saturday following the presentation, members of the Millicent Field Naturalists and Friends of Mount Gambier Parks headed out with Mark Hutchinson, Bryan Haywood (ForestrySA) and I to help establish two new survey grids, clean up survey grids and undertake some reptile surveys while we were there. We had beautiful reptile weather, sunny and warm, and consequently found over eight species of skink and one small snake. Although we didn’t find any Eared Worm-lizard on the day, we did find some very important traces! The lizards shed their skin like a snake, and luckily for us we are able to identify the species from their skin, so we knew that they have been using the area.
A big thank you to the Millicent Field Nats and Friends of Mount Gambier Parks for all their help on the Saturday, as their work will set the scene for a productive 2013 Spring survey season! A big thankyou also goes to Mark Hutchinson and Bryan Haywood for all the knowledge, expertise and help that they kindly shared with us on Friday and Saturday.
We would love to hear from you if you think you have seen this elusive lizard or would like to be involved. There is more information on the Eared Worm-lizard’s project page and if you have any questions or a sighting please contact me, Cath Dickson.