Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, included on the Commenced List (1/11/2009).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened reptiles. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.6 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011m) [Admin Guideline].
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
State Government
    Documents and Websites
ACT:Ribbons of Life: ACT Aquatic Species and Riparian Zone Conservation Strategy (ACT Government, 2007a) [Report].
NSW:New South Wales Murray Biodiversity Management Plan (Murray Catchment Management Authority (Murray CMA), 2012) [State Action Plan].
NSW:Pink-tailed Worm-lizard - profile (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2005ad) [Internet].
State Listing Status
ACT: Listed as Vulnerable (Nature Conservation Act 1980 (Australian Capital Territory): 2013 list)
NSW: Listed as Vulnerable (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): December 2013 list)
VIC: Listed as Threatened (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Victoria): February 2014 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
VIC: Listed as Endangered (Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria: 2013 list)
Scientific name Aprasia parapulchella [1665]
Family Pygopodidae:Squamata:Reptilia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Kluge,1974
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Aprasia parapulchella

Common name: Pink-tailed Worm-lizard

Other common name: Pink-tailed Legless Lizard

The Pink-tailed Worm-lizard is a cryptic fossorial (lives underground) reptile that can grow to 14 cm. The dark brown head and nape gradually merges with the pale grey or grey-brown body. The end half of its tail is pinkish/reddish-brown, and the longitudinal dark bar within each dorsal scale gives the impression of lines of dots along the body and tail. It is whitish below, with a rounded blunt snout, and its tail is nearly as long as its body (Cogger 2000).

The Pink-tailed Worm-lizard is known from a patchy distribution along the foothills of the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, between Bendigo in Victoria and Gunnedah in NSW (Wong et al. 2011). Populations are fragmented. Known populations in Victoria are centred on Bendigo, and known sites in NSW highly isolated from each other (Wong et al. 2011). Records have been made at 180 m above sea level at Whipstick north of Bendigo in Victoria, to 815 m above sea level at Mount Taylor in the ACT (Wong et al. 2011).

In the ACT, the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard is mainly distributed along the Murrumbidgee and Molonglo River corridors as well as some of the hills within Canberra Nature Park (Osborne & Jones 1995; Wong et al. 2011). Although widespread, the species is patchily distributed and is absent from some suitable habitat within larger habitat mosaics (Wong et al. 2011). Records have been made in Canberra Nature Park (Mount Taylor, Cooleman Ridge, Urambi Hills, The Pinnacle, Farrer Ridge, Mount Arawang, Oakey Hill, McQuoids Hill, Kama Nature Reserve and Black Mountain), the Murrumbidgee River Corridor (Woodstock, Stony Creek, Bullen Range and Gingerline Reserves) some leasehold land and some natural remnants within land managed for forestry (Barrer 1992; Osborne & McKergow 1993; Osborne & Jones 1995; Wong et al. 2011). Historical records have also been made from within or close to, the Ainslie-Majura complex, Tuggeranong Hill and Red Hill (Wong et al. 2011).

In NSW, the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard has a widespread, though disjunct distribution, mostly at isolated sites. This includes near Tarcutta, Bathurst, Cootamundra, Adelong, Lake Burrinjuck, Yass, Wee Jasper, West Wyalong, Buddigower, Bredbo, Holbrook, Howlong, Walbundrie (Goombatgana Hill), Albury (Nail Can Hill), Goulburn River National Park (Hunter Valley), Mudgee and Gunnedah (Wong et al. 2011). It is likely that there are more populations in the state (Wong et al. 2011).

In Victoria, all populations are recorded from near Bendigo, Robertson and Heard. Most records are from the Greater Bendigo National Park and the populations in this area probably encompass Big Hill Range to the south, Marong to the west and Sugarloaf Range to the east (Wong et al. 2011).

The distribution of the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard is best known from the ACT, where there has been considerable survey effort (Wong et al. 2011).


Pink-tailed Worm-lizards are most commonly found sheltering under small rocks (15–60 cm basal area) shallowly embedded in the soil (2–5 cm). Some individuals have been found under larger rocks embedded up to 30 cm deep. Rocks are used for thermoregulation, with lizards preferring rocks that receive direct sunlight (Barrer 1992). Individuals may be faithful to the same rock for long periods of time. The lizards utilise ant burrows underneath the rocks, possibly retreating deep into burrows in hot, dry weather (Osborne & Jones 1995).

Geology of Pink-tailed Worm-lizard sites in the Canberra region are largely late Silurian acid volcanics (rhyodacite, rhyolite, dacitic tuff, volcaniclastic sediments and quartzite) (Wong et al. 2011). Geology at other sites is described as outcropping intrusive pophyritic granite (Albury), granite (Holbrook), metasedimentary (Howlong and Bendigo) and laterite (Gunnedah and Buddigower) (Wong et al. 2011).

The Pink-tailed Worm-lizard sites do not show a significant relationship with aspect (Wong et al. 2011). It is suggested that surveys that have indicated a preference (Barrer 1992; Jones 1999) may have inadvertently avoided southerly aspects (Wong et al. 2011). Across its range, the species has been found on slopes of between 3° and 40° (Wong et al. 2011). 


The Pink-tailed Worm-lizard occurs in primary and secondary grassland, grassy woodland and woodland communities including mallee, and box-ironbark forest (Wong et al. 2011). Microhabitat attributes, such as rockiness and the presence of ground-layer species (especially native grasses) also varies, but could be the principal determinants of its occurrence. For a comprehensive description of vegetation at each site, see Wong and colleagues (2011).

Most sites where Pink-tailed Worm-lizard occurs are characterised by the cover of predominantly native grasses; Kangaroo Grass (Themeda australis) is a key botanical indicator of suitable habitat in the ACT, along with Red-leg Grass (Bothriochloa macra) and Lomandra filiformis (Jones 1992, 1999; Osborne & Coghlan 2004). Sites in NSW sites, while not dominated by Kangaroo Grass, can still be described as native grassland (ACT Government 2007a). The presence of other plant species, including spear grasses (Austrostipa spp.), weeds and River Tussock (Poa labillardieri), decreases the likelihood of presence (Jones 1992, 1999). In Victoria, the vegetation affiliations are less clear, although occupied sites have a slightly higher cover and diversity of shrub and ground-layer vegetation (Robertson & Heard 2008).


The Pink-tailed Worm-lizard is rarely found when air temperatures exceed 25°C or during dry summer weather, suggesting that temperature and moisture regimes are important factors influencing activity and location of individuals (Jones 1999). Groups of 2–8 individuals have been recorded (Jones 1999).

The Pink-tailed Worm-lizard is oviparous with a clutch size of two (Osborne & Jones 1995). Gravid (pregnant) specimens have been collected in December (Patchell & Shine 1986). Males possibly reach sexual maturity at three years (with a length of 102 mm) and females at four years (with a length of 118 mm) (Jones 1999).

The Pink-tailed Worm-lizard is a dietary specialist, consuming adults, larvae and pupae of at least 15 species of ants, which represent 4–5 subfamilies (Jones 1992). In one study, 75% of Pink-tailed Worm-lizard captures occurred under rocks that were also occupied by ants, and 90% were found under rocks with multiple insect burrow entrances (Jones 1999).

The Pink-tailed Worm-lizard is diurnal, being observed active above ground during the day in both the field and in the laboratory (Wong et al. 2011). Basking, rapid movement through grass and traversing tracks have been observed in the field during warmer months (Wong et al. 2011). Also, collections in pitfall traps indicate above ground movement (Jones 1999).

The Pink-tailed Worm-lizard can be found throughout the year by searching under rocks, however, it appears to be more difficult to detect during hot dry periods (Osborne et al. 1991). Peak seasonal activity is likely to be late spring and early summer during warm, but not overly dry, conditions. The following survey methods were adopted by Osborne and colleagues (1991):

  • Searches are restricted to an area of relatively homogeneous habitat within each site and a search beneath all rocks that can be turned is made.
  • Rock cover density rather than fixed area size determines a plot, and 150–200 rocks need to be turned to be reasonably confident of determining the species’ presence.
  • Search success appears to be highest in spring and early summer on warm but not hot days, after a period of rainfall extending over several days.
  • During summer months, surveys are carried out in the mornings or on cloudy days when soil temperatures beneath the rocks is not too high.
  • During late autumn and winter, surveys are carried out on clear sunny days as warming of the rocks appears to attract individuals to the soil surface beneath the rocks.

Individuals of the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard from NSW and the ACT are recognised as belonging to the same species largely on the basis of geographic proximity, and are unlikely to be confused with any other ‘limbless’ species of lizard. However, there is less certainty when identifying individuals in Victoria, particularly on the basis of single individuals from a location. Given that it is difficult to distinguish the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard from other Aprasia spp., it is recommended that tissue samples, several where possible, be taken from locations outside species core distribution (that is, areas other than the ACT and adjacent areas in NSW) (DSEWPAC 2011m).

Wong and colleagues (2011) identify the following combination of characters in the separation of the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard from other Aprasia spp.: 

  • The first upper labial scale is wholly fused with the nasal scale.
  • Three pre-anal scales are present.
  • Two pre-ocular scales are usually present.
  • There is an absence of a lateral head pattern.

Pink-tailed Worm-lizard is threatened by a reduction in the cover of native grasses (Osborne & Jones 1995; Osborne & McKergow 1993). Sites which have undergone pasture improvement typically have a thick cover of introduced grasses and weeds, and support few, if any, lizards (Osborne & McKergow 1993). Heavy grazing can degrade habitat by selective removal of native grasses and nitrification from faeces, leading to a reduced cover of native species (Osborne & McKergow 1993). Stock may also degrade the soil fabric through trampling (Barrer 1992). However, the species still persists at some sites with a long grazing history (Barrer 1992; Osborne & Jones 1995).

Clearing of land for grazing may have benefited the species by increasing the available habitat (Barrer 1992; Osborne & McKergow 1993). Regeneration of woodlands may threaten the long-term survival of some populations (Barrer 1992).

The removal of rocks for landscaping may threaten some populations (Osborne & McKergow 1993).

The invasion of the woody shrub Burgan (Kunzea ericoides) into grasslands may threaten the long-term viability of some sites (Osborne & Jones 1995).

Wong and colleagues (2011) recommend the following research into the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard:

  • further targeted surveys in NSW and Victoria
  • research into the relationship between persistence in the landscape and land disturbance (agriculture)
  • taxonomic and genetic work between populations
  • dispersal capability and the role of connectivity in the landscape.

The ACT Government (2007) outlines fuel and fire suppression guidelines for the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard. High intensity fire, rock picking, surface reshaping, major soil disturbance and use of fire suppression chemicals/agents are identified as high impact activities (ACT Government 2007).

Government funded grants

Queanbeyan Landcare (NSW) received $3700 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2000–01 for the encouragement of community support and involvement in implementing recovery plans for this species, and for the co-ordination of signage erection and management of pedestrian and unauthorised vehicle access to the site.

Bendigo Field Naturalists Club (Victoria) received $4950 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2000–01 for the prevention of impacts on key habitat from a proposed development on private land, the identification and protection of priority habitat for this species, and the establishment of a co-operative management agreement with the developer.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing modified pastures and associated habitat changes Aprasia parapulchella in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006cd) [Internet].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Aprasia parapulchella in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006cd) [Internet].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat alteration (vegetation, soil, hydrology) due to trampling and grazing by livestock Aprasia parapulchella in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006cd) [Internet].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat loss and modification due to clearance of native vegetation and pasture improvements The Impact of Global Warming on the Distribution of Threatened Vertebrates (ANZECC 1991) (Dexter, E.M., A.D. Chapman & J.R. Busby, 1995) [Report].
Biological Resource Use:Gathering natural materials:Removal of bush rocks Aprasia parapulchella in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006cd) [Internet].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Ecosystem Degradation:Decline in habitat quality Aprasia parapulchella in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006cd) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Oryctolagus cuniculus (Rabbit, European Rabbit) The threat posed by pest animals to biodiversity in New South Wales (Coutts-Smith, A.J., P.S. Mahon, M. Letnic & P.O. Downey, 2007) [Management Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Problematic Native Species:plant Aprasia parapulchella in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006cd) [Internet].

ACT Government (2007). Pink Tailed Worm Lizard (Aprasia parapulchella) Fuel and Fire Suppression Guidelines.

ACT Government (2007a). Ribbons of Life: ACT Aquatic Species and Riparian Zone Conservation Strategy. [Online]. Action Plan No. 29. Canberra: Department of Territory and Municipal Services. Available from:

Barrer, P. (1992). A survey of Aprasia parapulchella along parts of the lower Molonglo River corridor. Page(s) 1-13. ACT Parks & Con. Wildlife Research Unit, Canberra.

Cogger, H.G. (2000). Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia - 6th edition. Sydney, NSW: Reed New Holland.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011m). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened reptiles. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.6 . [Online]. Canberra, ACT: DSEWPaC. Available from:

Jones, S.R. (1992). Habitat relationships, diet and abundance of the endangered pygopodid, Aprasia parapulchella. Hons. Thesis. University of Canberra. University of Canberra, Canberra.

Jones, S.R. (1999). Conservation biology of the Pink-tailed Legless Lizard Aprasia parapulchella. Page(s) 1-252. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Canberra. University of Canberra, Canberra.

Osborne, W.S. & F.V.C. McKergow (1993). Distribution, population density and habitat of the Pink-tailed Legless Lizard Aprasia parapulchella in Canberra Nature Park, ACT. Page(s) 14-23. ACT Government, Canberra.

Osborne, W.S. & R. Coghlan (2004). Distribution of the Pink-tailed Worm lizard in the Lower Molonglo Valley, ACT, with respect to strategic land planning. Report commissioned by ACT Planning and Land Authority. Canberra, ACT: Applied Ecology Research Group, School of Resource, Environmental and Heritage Sciences, University of Canberra.

Osborne, W.S. & S.R. Jones (1995). Recovery plan for the Pink-tailed Worm Lizard (Aprasia parapulchella). ACT Parks and Conservation Service Technical Report 10. Department of Environment, Land and Planning, Tuggeranong.

Osborne, W.S., M. Lintermans & K.D. Williams (1991). Distribution and conservation status of the endangered Pink-tailed Legless Lizard (Aprasia parapulchella) (Kluge). Research Report 5. Canberra: ACT Parks and Conserrvation Service.

Patchell, F.C. & R. Shine (1986). Food habits and reproductive biology of the Australian legless lizards (Pygopodidae). Copeia. 1986 (1):30-39.

Robertson, P. & G. Heard (2008). Report on field-surveys for the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard (Aprasia parapulchella) in the Bendigo region, central Victoria: Distribution, habitat assoociations and population attributes. Hurstbridge, Victoria: Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd.

Wong, D.T.Y., S.R. Jones, W.S. Osborne, G.W. Brown, P. Robertson, D.R. Michael & G.M. Kay (2011). The life history and ecology of the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard Aprasia parapulchella Kluge - a review. Australian Zoologist. 35(4):927-940.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Aprasia parapulchella in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Thu, 21 Aug 2014 03:34:43 +1000.