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Shingleback Skinks Found to Be Anemic in Chemically Controlled Aussie Croplands

January 16, 2015



The Shingleback skink (Tiliqua rugosa ) of Australia has been adversely affected by agricultural chemicals according to research from the Universty of Sydney. The popular lizard, also known s the sleepy lizard, suffers from anemia brought upon by biochemicals used in agriculture, according to a news release put out by the university. 


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The Iconic Australian Shingleback Skink—in the Wild and in Captivity

Shingleback Skink


shingleback skink

University of Sydney

Associate Prof. David Phalen with a shingleback skink, also known as a sleepy lizard.

The researchers looked at the health of two populations of shingleback skink; one population from “unimproved rangeland” and the other from what the researchers called intensively managed cereal croplands where chemicals are widely used on the crops. They looked at both the physical condition of the lizard populations and took blood samples and found that 56 percent of the lizards in the cropland region suffered from anemia while not a single lizard in the unimproved rangeland suffered from anemia. 

"The fact this species is being affected by chemicals means other wildlife, livestock and even humans sharing the same environment may be affected, Anita Smith, lead researcher on the paper said in a statement released by the university. “It suggests the health of other reptiles may also indicate the overall health of the environment."

The researchers attribute the anemia to the premature destruction of the lizards’ red blood cells, caused by an as yet unnamed chemical distributed on the crops. In addition, the body conditions of lizards found in the croplands were observed to be in a negative deteriorating state, brought on by the chemical usage. Another finding was that some of the lizards in the control group experienced higher than normal white blood cell counts but didn’t show signs of anemia.

These reptiles could be suffering from a chronic infectious disease, the researchers said. The most common chemical used on the croplands is zinc phosphide, which is used to kill mice. Contributors to the study include Associate Prof. David Phalen of the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Science and Prof. Mathew Crowther from the University of Sydney's School of Biological Sciences.


John B. Virata keeps a western hognose snake, a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata 

 

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