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Hamelin Skink. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
Hamelin Skink. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

Hamelin Skink

Scientific name: 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 Ben Parkhurst.

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

Where Hamelin Skinks live

The Hamelin Ctenotus’ range is incredibly small, measuring less than 150 square kilometres. 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 is now managed for conservation.

Ecologist Ben Parkhurst with a Hamelin Skink. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

Because of its incredibly small distribution, the Hamelin skink is listed as Vulnerable by the Australian Government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999), and Near Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on the Red List of Threatened Species.

Mallee Spinifex Country on Hamelin Reserve. Photo Jiri Lochman / Lochman Transparencies.

They live in mallee habitat – among clumps of spinifex with a eucalypt overstorey on red sandplain.

This pocket of vegetation is isolated from other suitable skink habitat by surrounding Acacia shrubland.


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Hamelin Skink 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 (they were first described by western scientists in 1984).

We do know Hamelin Skinks dig sand burrows 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.

A camouflaged Hamelin Skink. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

Threats to Hamelin Skinks

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 about its distribution, diet, reproduction and behaviour.

The Hamelin Skink. Photo Simon Fordham / NaturePix.

What’s Bush Heritage doing?

In 2015 we bought Hamelin Station Reserve, a 202,000 hectare 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 have de-stocked 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.

Donate today to help us continue this and other vital conservation work.

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