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Skinks (Family Scincidae) are the most diverse family of lizards (~1745 described species worldwide), and the Australasian region (Australia, New Caledonia, New Zealand) is a recognised global hotspot (>600 species) for skinks. Here we focus on determining the phylogenetic relationships and biogeography within the tribe Eugongylini, one of three lineages in the region. We used mtDNA (ND2) and nuclear (RAG-1, c-mos) DNA sequences and phylogenetic analyses to reveal the presence of three well-supported lineages of Australian Eugongylini. We found a sister relationship between the monotypic genera Eroticoscincus and Harrisoniascincus, and that the monotypic Anepischetosia has close affinities with Carinascincus coventryi and Pseudemoia. C. coventryi represents a separate lineage from the main Carinascincus radiation. Emoia was not found to be monophyletic, with Emoia s.s. part of an Australian lineage, and the remainder of the genus representing an older divergence within the tribe. The widespread and speciose Cryptoblepharus represented a well-supported lineage within an Australian lineage. Our analyses confirm previous suggestions that four Sphenomorphus species (louisiadensis, minutus, bignelli, and aignanus) are misplaced, and are part of the Eugongylini. Our phylogenetic analyses support the hypothesis that the origin of the tribe lies in Asia, with dispersal events to Africa, Australasia, and Oceania.
An increasing number of species are establishing populations outside of their native ranges, often with negative ecological and economic impacts. The detection and surveillance of invasive species presents a huge logistical challenge, given the large spatial regions in which new populations can appear. However, data collected through citizen science projects are increasingly recognised as a valuable source for detection and monitoring of invasive species. We use data from a national citizen science project, FrogID, to quantify the spread of the eastern dwarf tree frog (Litoria fallax) outside its historical native range in Australia. Of 48 012 records of L. fallax in the FrogID database, 485 were located far outside the historical native range of the species. L. fallax has established geographically large populations hundreds of kilometres away from its native range, and these appear to be spreading in extent over time. These populations have resulted in novel species co-occurrences, with L. fallax now co-occurring with at least two frog species not present in their native range. Although the impacts of the invasive populations of L. fallax remain unknown, our work highlights the value in leveraging citizen science projects to detect and monitor native species that can become invasive far outside their historical range.
Raine Island, the world’s largest green turtle nesting location, has low nest hatching success. The main causes of this low hatching success are thought to be nest destruction by subsequent nesting females, and inundation of nests during high tides and storm surges. But even nests that are protected from nest destruction and inundation appear to have relatively low hatching success, with most of the embryo mortality occurring early in incubation. Here, I compare hatching success and developmental phase of embryo death of protected ‘dry’ nests from Raine Island (RI) with similar nests from Heron Island (HI), a nesting location previously reported as having high hatching success. Nests at both sites were sampled close to the peak time of nesting (December). Twenty-eight nests were sampled at RI and 14 nests at HI. Nest temperatures were cooler during the first week of incubation at HI (median 26.9°C) than at RI (median 30.1°C), but three-days-in-a-row maximum nest temperatures were higher at HI (median 36.0°C) than at RI (median 33.5°C). I found the hatching success of sampled nests at both locations was similar, ~70%, but most embryo death occurred early in incubation at RI (median 16.5%) compared to HI (median 3.8%), but late in incubation at HI (median 4.9%) compared to RI (median 0.2%).
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