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
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Ctenotus angusticeps (Airlie Island Ctenotus) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008afw) [Conservation Advice].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ctenotus angusticeps (Airlie Island Ctenotus) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2012bb) [Listing Advice].
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, included on the Not Commenced List (1/11/2009).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat abatement plan to reduce the impacts of exotic rodents on biodiversity on Australian offshore islands of less than 100 000 hectares 2009 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009u) [Threat Abatement Plan].
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].
    Documents and Websites
Priority Threat Management of Pilbara Species of Conservation Significance (Carwardine, J., S. Nicol, S. Van Leeuwen, B. Walters, J. Firn, A. Reeson, T.G. Martin & I. Chades, 2014).
State Listing Status
WA: Listed as Vulnerable (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (Western Australia): September 2013 list)
Scientific name Ctenotus angusticeps [25937]
Family Scincidae:Squamata:Reptilia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Storr,1988
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

Other common names: Northwestern Coastal Ctenotus, Little Leopard Ctenotus

Genetic work by Maryan and colleagues (2013) indicates that there is little variation between populations, suggesting a single widespread population of recent radiation.

The Airlie Island Ctenotus is a dark olive-grey to light brown skink with a whitish underbelly and a snout to vent length (SVL) of 64–69 mm. Its dorsal (back) and lateral (side) surfaces are faintly mottled with a series of longitudinal whitish flecks intermixed with blackish markings that tend to align longitudinally. There is often some indication of a dark stripe mid-way down the back. The tail is up to 162% of the SVL, and there are 28–30 rows of midbody scales (Biologic 2012; Cogger 2000; Storr 1988). The species is consistently patterned across its range (Maryan et al. 2013).

The Airlie Island Ctenotus is known from approximately 12 locations in north-west WA: Airlie Island (offshore from Onslow), Thangoo Station (Roebuck Bay), Pretty Pool and Wedgefield (Port Hedland), Redbank (Port Hedland), Finucane Island (Port Hedland), Beebingarra Creek, Roebuck (Crab Creek), Cape Keraudren (Pardoo), Port Smith (Lagrange), Willie Creek (Broome), Boodarie Station and Karratha (Biologic 2012; Sadlier 1993; Storr 1988). Prior to 2012, only three locations were recorded: Airlie Island, Thangoo Station and Port Hedland (Biologic 2012; TSSC 2012bb). Although knowledge of the species range has improved, populations are fragmented, the habitat in which it occurs is unique and fragmented within the landscape, and populations are not known to occur in any protected reserve on the mainland (Maryan et al. 2013).

Biologic (2012) undertook nine days of targeted field surveys and habitat assessments in May 2012 between Onslow and Broome, WA. Browne-Cooper and Maryan (1990) indicate they observed 35 individuals over a two day period. Sadlier (1993) indicates the species was difficult to observe and accurately identify, and was only reliably recorded from captures made by pitfall trapping.

Airlie Island Ctenotus is known from 12 populations and there is abundant suitable habitat between locations (Biologic 2012), but no population estimate is available. The genetic status of the subpopulations is unknown (Kendrick & Stanley 2001).

Thirty-five lizards were captured during a two-day survey on Airlie Island in March 1990 (Browne-Cooper & Maryan 1990). Recorded sightings of the species total 48 individuals on Airlie Island (WA DEC 2009a), seven at Roebuck Bay (WA DEC 2009a) and 15 from the coastal Pilbara (Biologic 2012).

The Airlie Island Ctenotus occurs in Airlie Island Nature Reserve.

On the mainland, the Airlie Island Ctenotus generally inhabits the landward fringe of salt marsh communities in samphire shrubland or marine couch grassland (Maryan et al. 2013) in the intertidal zone along mangrove (Grey Mangrove (Avicennia marina) with occasional Red Mangrove (Rhizophora stylosa)) margins, however, subtle differences in vegetation/topography exist among sites where the species has been recorded (Biologic 2012).

During one study, all records in samphire sites were recorded close to tidal creeks but not in samphire adjacent to large river mouths, on sand dunes or in hummock grasslands (Biologic 2012). During the study, one record was made in mangrove (Avicennia spp.) and all sites contained nearby crab holes (Biologic 2012). Individuals were often sighted on low sandy rises in the form of densely vegetated small islands, amongst tidal flats. The infrequent inundation of these rises may explain their densely vegetated cover. These rises also varied in size and shape but were generally round (Biologic 2012).

The Airlie Island Ctenotus is strongly associated with samphire species Tectornia halocnemoides subsp. tenuis and Suaeda arbusculoides,which occur on clayey soils, and mixed herb and grass cover of Muellerolimon salicorniaceum and Sporobolus virginicus, which occur on sandy soils (Maryan et al. 2013). Vegetation associations where the Airlie Island Ctenotus has been recorded include:

  • Muellerolimon salicorniaceum, Tectornia halocnemoides subsp. tenuis, and Suaeda arbusculoides low open samphire heathland over Sporobolus virginicus open tussock grassland with scattered Grey Mangrove shrubs and Triodia secunda scattered hummock grassland (near Port Hedland) (Turpin & Ford 2011)
  • Muellerolimon salicorniaceum low open samphire heathland (near Port Hedland) (Turpin & Ford 2011)
  • Muellerolimon salicorniaceum, Tectornia halocnemoides subsp. tenuis low open samphire heathland over Sporobolus virginicus open tussock grassland over Triodia secunda very open hummock grassland (near Port Hedland) (Turpin & Ford 2011)
  • samphire shrubland along a mangrove margin (on Roebuck Bay) (Sadlier 1993)
  • Wirewood (Acacia coriacea) shrubland and coastal spinifex in the the littoral zone, and tussock grassland (on Airlie Island) (Browne-Cooper & Maryan 1990).

The Airlie Island Ctenotus feeds on invertebrates, which are common among grass tussocks. Some individuals have been observed foraging in the heat of the day under Acacia shrubs (Browne-Cooper & Maryan 1990).

On Airlie Island, the species was observed to be most active between 7 and 9 AM (Browne-Cooper & Maryan 1990). On the mainland, the species has been observed foraging throughout the day, even with ground temperatures of 41-45 °C (Maryan et al. 2013). It is presumed that the species is active year round, from late morning to afternoon in the temperate months of the year, gradually changing to early morning and probably late afternoon in the hotter months of the year (DSEWPaC 2011m).

On the mainland, the Airlie Island Ctenotus has been reported using crab holes for shelter for avoiding humans and for shelter at night (Maryan et al. 2013; Turpin & Ford 2011).

Survey methods

Detection of the species at a site is reliant upon positive identification. For most species in this genus, sight records are, in most instances, unreliable given that it is not unusual for several morphologically similar species of Ctenotus to occur in sympatry. Pitfalls have proved to be a reliable way of trapping species of Ctenotus. If the survey involves a targeted search for this species, a series of pitfall trap lines comprising six 10 litre buckets spread along a 15 metre fence would be adequate for detecting the species; although other pitfall arrangements could be trialled (DSEWPaC 2011m). Biologic (2012) performed a desktop survey identifying potential habitat, ground truthed sites, placed a fence around locations where flushed lizards were observed (i.e. around low shrubs) and captured individuals by hand for identification.

Similar species in range

Ctenotus is the largest genus of Australian skinks and are difficult to identify. There are likely to be several similarly sized and patterned species within the range of the Airlie Island Ctenotus and accurate identification can be difficult. For this reason, collection of tissue samples is recommended (DSEWPaC 2011m). Maryan and colleagues (2013) suggest that it is most similar to C. grandis, a widespread arid-adapted species that is also flecked with white on the lateral surfaces.

The Airlie Island Ctenotus is threatened by Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) invasion and subsequent loss of habitat. The weed has been successfully controlled on Airlie Island (Dixon et al. 2003; Kendrick & Stanley 2001), however, it is unknown whether it has been eradicated or what the risk of habitat loss is on the mainland.

Human disturbance is also a threat with 3 ha (12%) of vegetation on Airlie Island cleared for the development of oil and gas processing facilities (Long et al. 1991). These facilities have been offline since 2002, however, future projects may utilise this infrastructure (WA DIR 2008).

Many of the mainland populations are located close to the shoreline, and it is likely that rising sea levels and floods associated with climate change could impact the species (Biologic 2012).

Refer to the Commonwealth Conservation Advice (TSSC 2010afw) for information on research priorities and recovery priority actions to mitigate threats including habitat loss, disturbance and modification, and weeds. Raising awareness of the species and enabling recovery of additional populations are also encouraged in the Advice.

Management documents relevant to the Airlie Island Ctenotus are at the start of the profile.

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
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Sea level rise:Inundation associated with climate change Inundation study (Environmental Resources Information Network, 2007) [Database].
Energy Production and Mining:Mining and Quarrying:Habitat destruction, disturbance and/or modification due to mining activities Ctenotus angusticeps in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006fv) [Internet].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human induced disturbance due to unspecified activities Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Ctenotus angusticeps (Airlie Island Ctenotus) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008afw) [Conservation Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Cenchrus ciliaris (Buffel-grass, Black Buffel-grass) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Ctenotus angusticeps (Airlie Island Ctenotus) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008afw) [Conservation Advice].

Australian Faunal Directory (AFD) (2010). Australian Faunal Directory. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 30-May-2010].

Biologic (2012). Ctenotus angusticeps Targeted Survey: Onslow to Broome. Prepared for BHP Billiton Iron Ore Pty Ltd.

Browne-Cooper, R. & B. Maryan (1990). Observations of Ctenotus angusticeps (Scincidae) on Airlie Island. Herpetofauna. 20 (1):1-2.

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:

Dixon, I.R., K.W. Dixon & M. Barrett (2003). Eradication of Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) on Airlie Island, Pilbara Coast, Western Australia. In: Veitch, C.R. & M.N. Clout, eds. Turning the Tide: the eradication of invasive species. Page(s) 92-101. IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group.

Kendrick, P. & F. Stanley (2001). Pilbara 4 (PIL4 - Roebourne synopsis). May J.E. & N.L. McKenzie, eds. A Biodiversity Audit of Western Australia's 53 Biogeographical Subregions in 2002. Perth: Department of Conservation and Land Management.

Long P.J., V.L. Long & Astron Engineering Pty Ltd (1991). Development of Oilfield Facilities on a Nature Reserve: The Airlie Island Experience (Onslow, Western Australia). In: Society of Petroleum Engineers Asia-Pacific Conference, 4-7 November 1991. Perth, Australia.

Maryan, B., R. Somaweera, R. Lloyd, M. Bunce & M. O'Connell (2013). Status of the Airlie Island Ctenotus, Ctenotus angusticeps (Lacertilia: Scinidae), with notes on distribution, habitat and genetic veriation. The Western Australian Naturalist. 29(2):103-118.

Sadlier, R.A. (1993). A range extension for the scincid lizard Ctenotus angusticeps of north-western Australia. Herpetofauna. 23(1):7-8.

Storr, G.M. (1988). A new Ctenotus (Lacertilia: Scincidae) from Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum. 14 (1):139-140.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2008afw). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Ctenotus angusticeps (Airlie Island Ctenotus). [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from:

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2012bb). Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ctenotus angusticeps (Airlie Island Ctenotus). [Online]. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Canberra, ACT: Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Available from:

Turpin J. & S. Ford (2011). A second mainland population of Ctenotus angusticeps (Lacertilia: Scincidae) from Port Hedland, Western Australia, with notes on habitat. Herpetofauna. 41(1-2):2-6.

Western Australia Department of Industry and Resources (WA DIR) (2008). Western Australian Oil and Gas Review. WA DIR. East Perth.

Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation (WA DEC) (2009a). Records held in DEC's Declared Flora Database and rare flora files. Perth, Western Australia: DEC.

EPBC Act email updates can be received via the Communities for Communities newsletter and the EPBC Act newsletter.

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). Ctenotus angusticeps in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:39:16 +1000.