Newly Discovered Sand Dragon Lizards: Meet the Tjakalpa, Kartiwarrui, Ibiri, and Tuniluki Species

In a remarkable discovery, four previously unknown species of sand dragon lizards have been found in South Australia. 

The lizards, belonging to the Ctenophorus family, have been named after the traditional languages of the region where they were discovered. 

The remarkable findings were made by Danielle Edwards, curator of terrestrial vertebrates at The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

This exciting development sheds light on the rich biodiversity of the area and underscores the importance of preserving indigenous languages and cultural heritage.

The newly identified lizards have been named tjakalpa, kartiwarrui, ibiri, and tuniluki. 

Each name reflects the traditional language of the specific region where the lizard was found. Tjakalpa, derived from the indigenous name for the Great Victoria Desert, is home to the lizard. 

Kartiwarrui, which refers to the Dieri term for red-backed lizard, is found in the Strzelecki Desert. Ibiri, meaning “small lizard” in the Barngarla language, inhabits parts of the Eyre Peninsula. 

Tuniluki, translating to “sand lizard” in Ngarrindjerin, resides in the mallee along the River Murray.

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A Decade-Long Endeavor

In a remarkable discovery, four previously unknown species of sand dragon lizards have been found in South Australia.

The discovery of these new sand dragon species is the culmination of over a decade of dedicated research.

 In 2008, Dr. Danielle Edwards embarked on a collaborative mission with Mark Hutchinson from the South Australian Museum to investigate the existence of additional sand dragon species beyond the three known at the time. 

Through extensive fieldwork and meticulous analysis, their research unveiled a total of 11 species, with four of them being entirely new to science.

Each of the four newly identified sand dragon lizards possesses distinct physical traits that set them apart. 

The lizards can be differentiated by their unique colorations and markings on their chests and throats. 

Dr. Edwards explains that these differences can be attributed to their specific habitats. Lizards living in dune crests, for example, exhibit long tails, limbs, and even feather-like structures on their toes, aiding them in navigating sandy environments.

One intriguing aspect of the newfound sand dragon lizards is the unconventional gender characteristics they display. 

Typically, male lizards are larger than females. However, in this case, the researchers noticed instances where females were significantly larger than males.

The males of these sand dragon species exhibit vibrant colors and elaborate displays, making them charismatic figures in their ecosystems. 

Furthermore, females often possess variations of the male badges on their throats and chests, challenging traditional assumptions about gender roles in lizard evolution.

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Source: ABC News via

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