Semen collection and cryopreservation in the Eastern Water Skink

To our knowledge, there are only four published reports of successful semen collection in lizards: common geckos, green iguana, brown anole and McCann's skink; and only one detailed study of reproductive physiology and ejaculate traits.

In 2014-2015, we had some success with semen extraction from wild caught goannas (Lace Monitor and Gould’s (Sand) Monitor) at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. However, our progress was limited by our ability to locate, catch and sex male goannas during their peak breeding season.

To improve semen extraction techniques, collaboration was developed between Taronga Wildlife Reproductive Centre and “The Lizard Lab” at Macquarie University, Sydney. The Lizard Lab is focused on behavioural and evolutionary ecology, for which they use lizards as model system and have captive populations of Blue-Tongue Skink, Tree Skink, Shingleback Skink and over 40 male Eastern Water Skinks.

Of the approximately 58 Australian skink species, 11 are currently listed as vulnerable or threatened with extinction. Developing semen collection techniques in captive populations will be the first step to collecting sperm from wild skink species for conservation genebanking, development of assisted reproductive technologies and research into sexual selection in these species.