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Photos: 3 colorful lizard species discovered in Australia

Researchers in Australia have described three new lizard species from the northwestern part of the continent.

The new species — the Elegant Rainbow Skink (Carlia decora), the Orange-flanked Rainbow Skink (Carlia rubigo), and the Whitsunday Rainbow Skink (Carlia inconnexa) — are described in the journal Zootaxa. The species were identified after careful study of the widely distributed Open-litter Rainbow Skink (Carlia pectoralis). Genetic analysis and morphology work showed the lizard to be comprised of several species.

“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,” said Conrad Hoskin of James Cook University. “More and more we are finding that species we thought were widespread in eastern and tropical Australia are in fact composed of multiple species that have been overlooked because they look approximately similar. It’s only when we look in detail that we find that there are very interesting new species hidden in there.”

Male Elegant Rainbow Skink

Male Orange-flanked Rainbow Skink. Photos courtesy of James Cook University

“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,” Hoskin added. “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.”

Hoskin co-authored the new lizard descriptions with Patrick Couper from the Queensland Museum.

The species are notable for their coloration.

“The species names are in reference to the bright colors 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 color of males of that species,” said Hoskin. The Whitsunday Rainbow Skink’s scientific name, ‘inconnexa’ or ‘unjoined’ if reference to its isolation on several islands off the coast of Eastern Australia.

The new species are common within their habitats and are not considered at-risk.

CITATION: CONRAD J. HOSKIN & PATRICK J. COUPER. Description of two new Carlia species (Reptilia: Scincidae) from north-east
Australia, elevation of Carlia pectoralis inconnexa Ingram & Covacevich 1989 to
full species status, and redescription of Carlia pectoralis (de Vis 1884). ZooTaxa published: 12 Nov. 2012

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