An unusually large basking aggregation of Cryptoblepharus virgatus (Garman, 1901)(Lacertilia:Scincidae) in Sydney.
Originally published in Herpetofauna (June 2004):60.
488 Park Road, Park Orchards, Victoria 3114
Cryptoblepharus virgatus (Garman, 1901) is a common small skink in south-eastern Australia. In urban areas it is commonly found on brick walls of houses (Hoser, 1989).
This note describes an unusually high number of skinks basking at a single site. Nineteen mainly adult C. virgatus and a single adult Lampropholis guichenoti were observed together on 7 May 2002 at about 2.30pm at 84 Hermitage Rd, West Ryde. The weather was clear and sunny and the air temperature was about 22oC. The location was at the front wall of a factory in a street full of small factories, car repair shops and the like.
The aggregation was observed on a flattened sandstone rock in front of the factory wall and about 5 m from the roadway. The rock was more-or-less rectangular in shape, about 60 cm long, 30 cm wide and 20 cm thick. It was sitting on hardened muddy soil and surrounded by an area of basically bare dirt.
The isolated nature of the rock made it possible to catch and accurately count the lizards. Lizards were caught as they moved about the rock surface, or by lifting the rock and grabbing lizards as they fled or rested on the underside.
At the time the aggregation was first seen, all or most of the lizards were actively basking and moving about the rock surface. They were observed for a short time before being caught, and no agonistic behaviour was observed between the lizards, although it was noted that the lizards did not bask on one another and tended to move about without making physical contact with one another.
The explanation for the large number of skinks being congregated on a single rock appears to relate to the location of the rock and the time of year. The rock was apparently the only suitable basking spot in the immediate vicinity. Other walls were generally shaded or lacked crevices and other close retreats for the lizards. There were no other suitable rocks or areas of debris to provide refugia for the lizards in the vicinity.
Glen Shea and two (anonymous) referees assisted in preparation of the paper.
Hoser, R.T. 1989. Australian Reptiles and Frogs. Pierson and Co., Sydney.
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