Hamelin Skink

Last updated: Thursday 10 November, 2016

or Hamelin Ctenotus (Ctenotus zastictus)

Imagine having a tail twice as long as your body! The body of an adult Hamelin Ctentous measures 6cm long, and its tail can be more than double this.

The skink is dark brown to black with ornate stripes, spots and blotches along its sleek body. When it's being chased, these intricate patterns blur, which may help to confuse predators!

It has white comb-like scales near its ear openings, which is thought to keep soil out of its ears when burrowing (the word ctenotus means 'comb ear'). 

The Hamelin Skink. Photo Simon Fordham / NaturePix.
The Hamelin Skink. Photo Simon Fordham / NaturePix.
The Hamelin skink’s body is perfectly suited for living in an arid environment. Its sleek scales help it prevent water loss, and enable it to move seamlessly through its sandy habitat. 

Where do Hamelin Skinks live?

The Hamelin Ctenotus’ range is incredibly small, measuring less than 150 km2. This tiny area is just inland of Shark Bay, in coastal Western Australia. They’re found on only two properties: Coburn Station and Hamelin Station Reserve, which was bought by Bush Heritage in 2015, and is now managed for conservation. 

Because of its incredibly small distribution, the Hamelin skink is listed as Vulnerable to extinction by both the Australian Government under the EPBC act (1999), and by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on the Red List of Threatened Species. It's also threatened (Vulnerable) under the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act (1950).

Mallee Spinifex Country on Hamelin Reserve. Photo Jiri Lochman / Lochman Transparencies.
Mallee Spinifex Country on Hamelin Reserve. Photo Jiri Lochman / Lochman Transparencies.
They live in mallee habitat – among clumps of spinifex with a eucalypt overstory on red sandplain. This pocket of vegetation is isolated from other suitable skink habitat by surrounding Acacia shrubland. 

Behaviour

While Hamelin Skinks are active in the day, they often seek shelter from extreme heat, either in their burrows or under vegetation. In the evenings, they can emerge to find mates, and to feed. They eat insects, spiders and other small invertebrates. 

Much remains unknown about the species breeding habits (indeed they were only described by western scientists in 1984)1.

We do know they dig a sand burrow with their claws. The female is then thought to lay a clutch of up to five small, leathery eggs. The young, once hatched, are independent of the parents, and immediately have to fend for themselves. 

Threats

Hamelin Skink in action. Photo Simon Fordham / NaturePix.
Hamelin Skink in action. Photo Simon Fordham / NaturePix.
Threats to this skink include habitat disturbance from agriculture and feral herbivores. Inappropriate fire regimes can destroy the species’ habitat and leave them more vulnerable to predation. Feral predators, especially cats, are a common threat to reptiles across most of Australia. 

Further research is needed to understand the threats to this skink and more information about its distribution, diet, reproduction and behaviour. 

What's Bush Heritage doing?

In 2015 we bought Hamelin Station Reserve, a 202,000 ha former pastoral station that neighbours the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. This is one of the two properties where the Hamelin skink is found.

We're in the process of de-stocking the property, removing the sheep and goats that have been in the area for more than a century (in the Shark Bay area, the first pastoral leases were granted in the 1860s). With your help, we’re making sure this skink – and its long tail – will be around for a long time to come.


  1. Museum of WA: A New Ctenotus from Western Australia
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