Siobhan Dennison

For my PhD, I investigated sociality and dispersal of the great desert skink, Liopholis kintorei. The great desert skink is one species of a unique group of Australian reptiles (the Egernia group), many of which live in stable, kin-based social groupings. The great desert skink is unique among Egernia because multiple individuals within their kin groups contribute to the maintenance and construction of the extensive burrow systems in which they live. This might suggest a level of cooperation not seen in any other reptile, and yet little is known about the population and group dynamics of this species. I am combined molecular tools with behavioural and mark-recapture data to investigate the social and dispersal behaviour of L. kintorei, and to test leading hypotheses on the maintenance of vertebrate sociality. Specifically I characterised the group structure, mating system and dispersal characteristics of this species, currently listed as vulnerable in Australia.

This information will be used both as a foundation for further study of the lizards’ social behaviour, and to provide insight into threatening processes, informing conservation management of this species in Central Australia. The project is carried out at the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s Newhaven Sanctuary in the Northern Territory.