Two New ‘Rainbow’ Lizards Found in Australia

Australian biologists have discovered two new species of lizards – the Elegant Rainbow Skink (Carlia decora) and the Orange-flanked Rainbow Skink (Carlia rubigo).

This image shows the Elegant Rainbow Skink (Hoskin CJ / Couper PJ /James Cook University)

“Both species are small skinks belonging to the genus Carlia, a diverse group of skinks in tropical Australia,” said Dr Conrad Hoskin of the James Cook University’s School of Marine and Tropical Biology, co-author of a paper reporting the discovery in the journal Zootaxa.

“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.”

The Elegant Rainbow Skink was found in forests in the Townsville and Mackay areas. “It is one of the most common skinks in Townsville gardens and would be familiar to many Townsville residents as the small skink that scurries away into the garden bed,” Dr Hoskin said.

“However, the Orange-flanked Rainbow Skink is found in drier areas of eastern and Central Queensland, preferring open forests and rocky areas. It is not found right in Townsville but lives on the rocky ranges around Townsville like Magnetic Island, Cape Cleveland and Herveys Range. The best place to see it around Townsville is Magnetic Island, where it is the most common lizard.”

This image shows the Orange-flanked Rainbow Skink (Hoskin CJ / Couper PJ /James Cook University)

The scientists have also described a third species – the Whitsunday Rainbow Skink (Carlia inconnexa).

“This species had previously been recognized as a subspecies of another skink species, but our research found that it was sufficiently different from all other populations that it should be elevated from subspecies to full species status.”

“The Whitsunday Rainbow Skink is only found on Whitsunday, Hook, Hayman and Lindeman Islands. The species name ‘inconnexa’ means ‘unjoined’, in reference to the isolation of this skink on islands.”

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Bibliographic information: Hoskin CJ, Couper PJ. 2012. 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 3546: 1–28