You'll be pleased to know that there are only 5 types of lizard in Australia. True, each type has several species within it, but five types are easy to remember: skinks, dragons (yes, dragons), monitors (aka goannas), geckos, and legless lizards. Easy or what? Easier still is that I didn't get to see any of the legless variety, nor any geckos. So, only three types to show you.
First off is possibly a tree skink (Egernia striolata) or a Carnaby Wall skink (Cryptoblepahrus carnabyi). As usual my identifications are always tentative and I'm happy to be corrected. Skinks like this are lovely little creatures, found in many places world-wide. Many thanks to Rachel Feytoh
on this. They are the friend of the outback traveller as they are insectivorous and hide out in tents and cabins where they dispose of all sorts of bugs. Once you get used to the scuttling sound as they run over the canvas or along a wooden wall you'll be fine with them. Geckos and some dragons fulfill a similar role. Skinks also scoff vegetables, fruit and leaves, and this fellow was helping us eat a carrot during a picnic. This species of skink is about 20 cm long, and can vanish in the blink of an eye if startled.
My next encounter was with what is commonly known as a shingleback lizard (Tiliqua rugosa). Curiously given the heavy "armour plating" and size of about 40 centimeters this lizard also belongs to the skink family. Unlike the fellow above, shinglebacks are very slow and ponderous creatures. They share a curious anatomical feature with some other larger skinks in that they have blue tongues. Unfortunately, this one never opened its mouth over the ten minutes or so that we observed him. While quite harmless to humans, shinglebacks are omnivorous and their jaws are capable of cracking open eggs, snails, and beetles. Apparently, they are popular pets!
In a different league entirely is the sand goanna (Varanus gouldii), a member of the monitor family of lizards. Monitors are found in Africa and Asia as well as Australia, and the larger species including the sand goanna are capable of inflicting severe wounds by tooth and claw upon humans if cornered. Sand goannas grow to about 1.4 m in length and can weigh up to 6 kg. They are fast, agile, excellent tree climbers, prodigious hole diggers, fearless, and apparently immune to snake venom. They are carnivores and their diet includes small mammals, other lizards, crocodile eggs if they can find them, birds, snakes and carrion. Although we did not get the chance to see it, monitor lizards including the sand goanna have forked tongues, like snakes.
We also came across some dragons. Contrary to popular myth dragons are real, just not quite like Smaug or the Welsh Flag variety. I think the following two shots are of a species of dragon, possibly male and female, but I'm not sure which. Any help would be appreciated. There appear to be about 30 different species of dragon in Australia, and identification can be quite tricky. The first below is thought to be an Eastern Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata), and the second possible a juvenile of the same species.
These last two shots, taken in the Flinders Ranges, are a crested bicycle dragon (Ctenophorus cristatus). I am happy to be corrected on this by Rachel Feytoh
, and my original attribution was based on a book found in the cabin where we were staying, and on seeing a marvelous neck crest when I first spotted this lizard in the scrub outside the cabin. Needless to say, once I had my camera in hand, the crest disappeared never to be seen again. However, the lizard sat on this dead branch or its immediate surrounding for a couple of hours, occasionally catching an unwary insect flying or crawling by. The dragon seemed to be aware of me as I moved around taking shots, but was quite unconcerned. As with skinks and geckos, dragons such as these are beneficial to campers as they are excellent bug destroying agents.
The close-up shows a nostril, an eye, the ear cavity (dark area bottom right) and what appears to be spiky skin, particularly on the bottom right. It is this skin that appears to be part of the crest (or beard?) that appears when the lizard is aroused. Anyone interested in these wonderful creatures can check out this link ==> australianherpetology.com/drag…
I hope you have enjoyed this little foray into the world of the Australian lizard.
David aka Okavanga
Update 24th May 2017.
Thanks to Rachel Feytoh
I have been able to include the correct names for previously unidentified species. Many thanks indeed Rachel.