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Bioinformatics

Student Projects

Lizards of Victoria


A Report on the Lizards of Victoria

    Weasel Skink

    Photo by Peter Robertson © Museum Victoria

  1. A List of Victoria's Lizards
  2. Name and Classification
  3. Conservation Status
  4. Distribution Maps
  5. Monthly Observation Data
  6. Observation Data Over Decades
  7. Images
  8. Viewing Specimens of Your Lizard
  9. Your Report
  10. The Lizards of Two Victorian Districts (Appendix)

There are 87 lizard species known from Victoria. These consist of 52 species of skinks, 12 dragons, 11 legless lizards, 9 geckos and 3 goannas or monitors. Seven lizards are classified as 'endangered', five are classified as 'critically endangered', and many others are more restricted in their range than was the case prior to European settlement.

The production of a report on the lizards of Victoria as a class project will provide students with an understanding of the distribution and environmental requirements of a fascinating part of Victoria's wildlife, while introducing them to the potential of bioinformatics. The project can be easily organised by allocating one species of lizard to each student in the class to research through the database, and supplementing this with additional information from library or web resources. When the students have finished their research, the results could be presented as short individual reports on each lizard and then combined as a class poster or publication.

1. A List of Victoria's Lizards

To obtain a complete list of Victoria's lizards click on the link below and highlight 'lizards' in the top left menu.

This will give you a complete list of all 87 Victorian lizards. Ensure that each student chooses one or several lizards - either by giving them a free choice from the list, or perhaps by allocating every third or fourth lizard from the list to obtain a representative sample of lizard Families. From this point, each student does their own research on their lizard(s) - either working alone, or with teacher guidance as appropriate.

2. Name and Classification

  1. Note the common and scientific names (Genus and Species) of your lizard. This information can be obtained from your initial listing (Step 1 above).
  2. How do scientists classify the lizard you are researching? Note and discuss the 'Parental Lineage' or 'Family Tree' for your lizard.
  3. Does the lizard you are researching have any close relatives? Note the Genus and Family it belongs to from the 'Family Tree' above. Now click on the link below and scroll down until you find the menu entitled 'Family and Generic Names'. Choose the generic name of your lizard to obtain a list of Victorian lizards that are closely related to the one you are researching.
  4. You may wish to see if your lizard has any more distant relatives in Victoria, particularly if you have discovered in (c) above that there are no other lizards in its Genus in Victoria. Using the same menu, enter the name of the Family to which your lizard belongs and note the names of the lizards in the list you obtain.

3. Conservation Status

A number of Victoria's lizards are endangered. What is the conservation status in Victoria of the lizard you are researching? Click on the link below, scroll down to the Genus & Species menu and enter the name of your lizard. What is its conservation status?

Teachers: When producing the combined report on the lizards of Victoria, you may wish to note the names of those lizard that have been declared 'endangered' and 'critically endangered' in Victoria. Some of these may not be included in the list of lizards being investigated by your students. Click on the link below, choose 'Search by Conservation Categories' and highlight 'endangered' and 'critically endangered' in the central menu (Victorian conservation categories).

4. Distribution Maps

Where does your lizard occur in Victoria? Enter its name via the link below to obtain a map showing its distribution in Victoria. Select and study additional maps showing the lizard's distribution according to vegetation types, rainfall, rivers, altitude and zoogeographic zones. After studying each map, try to describe what you have learned about the type of habitat favoured by your lizard.

5. Monthly Observation Data

In which month has your lizard been seen most frequently/least frequently across Victoria? Enter the name of your lizard using the link below and find out.

Can you explain the monthly observation pattern? Does your lizard wander about more frequently at certain times of the year? (Or have the scientists carried out more field trips at certain times of the year?)

6. Observation Data Over Decades

  1. During which decades has your lizard been seen most frequently/least frequently across Victoria? Is there a pattern of increasing/decreasing sightings? Enter the name of your lizard via the link below to find out.
  2. Can you explain the pattern of observations? Has the population of your lizard in Victoria increased or decreased over the decades? (Or have scientists carried out more field trips during certain decades?)

  3. Has the distribution of your lizard across Victoria changed over the decades? Enter the name of your lizard via the link below to find out. (Leave the menus specifying months and years blank).

This link will give you a summary table setting out the details of your lizard. Click on the common name of your lizard in the summary table to obtain a map of Victoria, showing sightings of your lizard for 1890-1939, 1940-1969 and 1970-1999. Click on the map to obtain regional maps. What changes in sightings do you notice? Are these actual changes in distribution of the lizard, or could changes in the frequency and location of field trips be partly responsible?

7. Images

To obtain one or several images of your chosen lizard, enter the name of the lizard via the link below. Click on the single thumbnail image that is returned to gain access to all available images. These images can then be enlarged by clicking on them.

Look closely at the images of your lizard and try to relate its physiology to its diet and habitat.

8. Viewing Specimens of Your Lizard

It is a good idea to try to view some actual specimens of the lizard you are researching. You may be able to join a field trip at one of Victoria's parks, which could enable you to see your animal in the wild. You may also be able to see live specimens at Melbourne Zoo or at a wildlife park, such as the one at Healesville. In addition, preserved specimens may be on display at Melbourne Museum.

9. Your Report

You may decide to supplement the data you have obtained with information from the Internet or from reference books in your library. Once you feel you have enough material, you are ready to write a report on your lizard. This could be presented as a printed document, a talk to your class or to other classes, a poster or a PowerPoint presentation.

Once the individual reports are ready, a comprehensive report on the lizards of Victoria can be prepared. This could be done in a variety of ways, including

  • a series of posters
  • a summary presentation on the local radio station
  • an article for the school magazine or local paper

10. The Lizards of Two Victorian Districts (Appendix)

Victoria's lizards, including those you are researching, are not evenly spread across Victoria. Many occur in some districts but not in others. In your combined report, you may wish to include some information about the variation in the distribution of lizards across the state. This could be added as an appendix to your report on the Lizards of Victoria.

Compare the lizards of two Victorian districts by clicking on the link below and selecting two districts. Make sure that the districts you choose are very different from each other (coastal cf. inland, high rainfall cf. low rainfall, plains cf. alpine, urban cf. rural).

You are also able to compare the lists of lizards observed in two suburbs. Choose parts of Melbourne that are very different from each other (eg. coastal cf. basalt plains, western suburbs cf. Dandenongs).

Which lizards are common to both of the districts/suburbs you are comparing? Which lizards are found in one district/suburb but not in the other? Which of the two districts/suburbs has the greater lizard diversity? From what you know of the characteristics of the two districts/suburbs, can you suggest some hypotheses to account for the variation?

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