Touching Reptiles¦Geckos, Skinks and Snakes

Amy Griffiths delighted us all with an entertaining and informative presentation on reptiles at the DRB Nats in April. Amy has a Bachelor of Biological Sciences, and licences to display wildlife for educational purposes and relocate reptiles. She grew up attending the DRB Nats and is the grand-daughter of Kevn and Peg Griffiths, daughter of Mike Griffiths, and now a reptile expert in her own right.

Amy immediately introduced her reptiles to us. First, we met one of our local nocturnal species of Gecko, the Barking Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii). In the Perth Hills region we also have the South Western Clawless Gecko (Crenadactylus ocellatus), the smallest gecko in Australia, along with a Marbled Gecko (Christinus marmoratus) and the Variegated Dtella (Gehyra variegata), amongst others.

Next was a Bobtail Lizard (Tiliqua rugosa), the most well-known skink in the Perth Hills, which has large shiny scales and gives birth to live young.

We were also shown two Stimson’s Pythons (Antaresia stimsoni). These grow to 1m in length and can have different patterns to suit their habitats. We then met a three-year-old, two metre, Olive Python (Liasis olivaceus) which is the largest snake in Western Australia and can grow to 3.5 metres. Finally, we saw a South-West Carpet Python (Morelia spilota imbricata) who slithered around Amy’s arms as she spoke.

Amy with Olive Python (Liasis olivaceus)

We learnt many “Rebel reptile and fun facts”; here are just nine of the many of them:

  1. Geckos use ‘London dispersion forces’ to climbi glass and can climb just about everything, except Teflon.
  2. Varanidae use Jacobson’s Organs to ‘smell’ with their tongues. We have three species in the South-west.
  3. Pythons kill their prey by inducing an aneurysm.
  4. Lizards and snakes are in the subclass of Lepidosauria along with turtles, crocodilians and birds; the legs of chickens have scales.
  5. Geckos have large eyes and chunky fat tails, are not very shiny and have velvet-like skin. Many lick their eyes as they cannot blink, and don’t have any pads on their toes.
  6. Skinks have smooth scales and if they are stressed they contract rings of muscle in their tails so that their tails drop off (autotomy).
  7. Dragons have no tail autotomy, have prickly skin, are not shiny and are egg-laying. We have five in the South-west.
  8. There are 20 snake species in the South-west and 176 across Australia. The majority are tiny burrowing snakes which are often beautifully coloured.
  9. Pythons are very dependent on moderate temperature ranges for their survival and digestion. If they are too cold after they have eaten prey, they can’t digest it and the prey will putrefy inside the snake and kill it. They also don’t tolerate high temperatures well.

Amy’s presentation was a delight to watch and learn from, and many enjoyed interacting with the reptiles. Her father proudly gave the closing thank you

Vanessa Jokovich