Environment A nose for trouble: native lizards can smell predators

A nose for trouble: native lizards can smell predators

Skinks know what stinks when it comes to surviving danger, using their sense of smell to detect both native and foreign predators.

That’s the finding from a Charles Sturt University study which looked at two native lizards – the southeastern morethia skink and the marbled gecko.

The discovery shows the native lizards aren’t as naïve as once thought when it comes to evading invasive species like foxes and feral cats.

The lizards also responded to chemical cues from the spotted-tail quoll, the dingo and eastern brown snake.

Exposing the lizards to the scents of native and introduced animals reduced their food consumption, meaning that both reptiles spent more time ‘avoiding predators’ than eating.

The findings give new hope that some native species can better avoid and survive the impact of destructive predators.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Dale Nimmo says some native animals may have evolved a general system to evade all predators.

“While we don’t know if they learn how to avoid predators or if it is a behaviour inherited through their genes, we do know that they recognise the scents of foxes and feral cats as a threat and respond in a way that would reduce their chances of being preyed on,” Nimmo says.

“This gives some hope for some native species as we seek to predict or prevent the impacts of invasive predators on Australian wildlife.”

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