Whites Skink (Liopholis whitii)

Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment

Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 14 December.
Applicant: School of Natural Sciences, University of Tasmania
Species/Taxon: Whites Skink (Liopholis whitii)
Location: Orford and surrounds (private land)
Title of research: How does offspring sex influence conflict within lizard families
Aim of project: The major aim of this project is to understand how the sex ratio of a litter influences the level of conflict between siblings and, more specifically, how offspring sex influences the extent of aggressive interactions initiated and received.
Justification: Family groups form the basis of social organisation across a wide range of organisms. Understanding the factors that influenced the initial emergence and diversification of family life are of fundamental importance. Egernia lizards display a great diversity of simple social behaviours; from solitary species to those that form large multi-generational family groups. This simplicity of social behaviour provides us with an opportunity to study the factors responsible for the initial emergence of family life. This project will utilise newly developed sex specific genetic markers to examine the role that sex plays in median this process. In doing so it will generate significant novel research outcomes that will provide insights in to the origins of family life.
Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: We will capture and use sixty pregnant females in this experiment.
Activities undertaken and methods: We will collect 60 pregnant females at the end of the gestation period (January) and return them to the Terrestrial Ecology facilities at the University of Tasmania. Only females who are gestating 2 or more offspring will be returned. Once in the laboratory females will be kept under standard conditions until birth. Upon birth, offspring will be weighed measured, toe clipped for later identification and have a small section of tail taken for later molecular sexing. Once all individuals within a litter are born they will be assayed for conflict. This will involve filming litters for a two-hour period in the morning following birth of the final offspring (females will give birth to between 2 – 5 offspring). From this data we will record all aggressive interactions between siblings and between siblings and their mother. This includes data on the direction of aggression between two individuals and the identity of the antagonist and receiver of that aggression.  
Fate of animals: All will be released at their point of capture – or, for offspring, the point of their mothers capture.
Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): White’s skink is a common reptile species throughout Orford and collecting the numbers needed for this project, and returning them to point of capture, is unlikely to affect the population. Collection from the natural population study sites has been on-going for the past nine years, and we have detected no adverse effect on that population.


Scientific Research Permits
Natural Values Conservation Branch
134 Macquarie Street
Hobart TAS 7000
Email: Scientific.Permits@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

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