Lizard species fight snakes to protect eggs

Sydney, Feb 1 (IANS) Snakes may have finally met their match in a lizard species which can fight back if their eggs are threatened, researchers say.

The researchers from the James Cook University (JCU) found that females of the Asian long-tailed skink aggressively defend their eggs from egg-eating snakes.

David Pike, lecturer in JCU School of Marine and Tropical Biology, co-authored the study on Orchid Island off Taiwan with Wen-San Huang from the National Museum of Natural Science, Taiwan, Si-Min Lin from the National Taiwan Normal University and Sylvain Dubey from the University of Lausanne, the Journal of Animal Ecology reports.

"Among lizards in general, it is quite rare to find a species that stays with the eggs until they hatch. But the long-tailed skink that we studied is among the few species that do guard their eggs. We found that the lizards will aggressively defend their eggs from predators -- even snakes," said Pike, according to a James Cook statement.

Pike said it might surprise people that lizards could deter a predator as formidable as a snake. "Many snake species readily eat lizards, so with the species we studied, we found we were either dealing with a very unique lizard or very wimpy snakes," he said.

"Lizards can be very aggressive towards snakes, as most mothers can be when provoked. But this snake species was only interested in eating the lizard eggs, and not the mother lizard." The physical attributes of the two were also a factor in the phenomenon, he said.

"The lizards are also pretty big and the snakes don't get very big. This allows the lizards to attack snakes without fear of being eaten," he said.

"The lizards understand that the snakes will not eat them, and as a consequence will fiercely attack snakes that enter the nest. By deterring snakes these mothers ensure that their eggs will hatch," added Pike.

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