Carinascincus ocellatus Spotted snow skink

Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment

Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 15 July 2024.

Applicant: University of Tasmania

Species/Taxon: spotted snow skink Carinascincus ocellatus

Location: Private land near Miena and near Orford, Tasmania

Title of research: Developing an innovative minimal-impact sampling for cellular physiology in lizards

Aim of project: Validate a new low-cost, high-throughput method for measuring multiple cellular functions in one low-impact tissue sample.

The proposed experiment aims to develop a non-destructive sampling method for measuring multiple cellular markers in lizards, addressing a critical need in ecological and physiological research. This method will generate comprehensive insights into cellular physiology, including cell size, cell type, telomere length, mitochondrial efficiency, and DNA damage. Current methods for collecting this data often involve invasive techniques that are costly and time-consuming. By validating a non-invasive method, this research could revolutionise physiological data collection, making it more accessible and efficient.

From a pure science perspective, this project will provide fundamental insights into cellular physiology. Understanding cellular functions is crucial as these responses underpin how organisms invest in growth, maintenance, and reproduction, which are key parameters that mediate population persistence. Additionally, by exploring how these cellular responses vary across thermal environments, this research will enhance our understanding of species' potential for adaptation and resilience to environmental changes. This knowledge is essential for predicting how species will respond to changing environments, thereby informing conservation strategies and policy decisions.

This research has significant implications for animal ethics in scientific studies. Traditional methods for studying cellular physiology often require euthanising animals, which raises ethical concerns. The proposed non-invasive method, if successful, could substantially reduce the need for destructive sampling. This aligns with the principles of the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement) in animal research, improving ethical standards and allowing for repeated measurements on the same individuals. Consequently, this method can provide more robust longitudinal data while enhancing animal welfare. The development of a validated, non-invasive sampling method will have wide-ranging applications beyond the immediate study. It can be applied to various species and ecological studies, facilitating research in conservation biology, wildlife management, and evolutionary biology.

In summary, this project aims to advance our understanding of cellular physiology in lizards while providing significant benefits in terms of animal welfare and research efficiency. By developing and validating a non-invasive sampling method, this research has the potential to revolutionise the field of physiological ecology, offering a valuable tool for future studies and conservation efforts.

Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: 80 lizards (C. ocellatus) will be captured and returned to the University facilities. We estimate approximately 40 additional lizards as bycatch as only adult male lizards will be used in this experiment bringing the total to 120. Any bycatch will be immediately released after capture. 

Activities undertaken and methods:
In September and October 2024, 40 male C. ocellatus lizards will be captured from private land near Miena Dam (41°58'52.0"S 146°43'48.4"E) and an additional 40 male C. ocellatus will be captured from private land near Orford (-42.584948, 147.799906). Capture will be performed either by hand, by meal-worm “fishing” or “noosing” techniques, all of which have low impact on captured animals. Lizards will be returned to the University of Tasmania, measured, weighed, and kept in terraria in specialised herpetology lab facilities for no longer than 5 days. All individuals will then be euthanised for tissue collection. The tissues sampled include blood, brain, heart, liver and tail. The goal of this experiment is to develop a non-destructive sampling method for future studies.

Fate of animals:
These animals will be euthanised humanely according to the ethics permit.

Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch):
Spotted snow skinks are a common reptile species at the study sites and across Tasmania. Removing the numbers needed for this project is unlikely to affect the population from which they are collected. Lizards involved in this experiment will be euthanised humanely. The method of euthanasia outlined in this experiment has been carried out previously on similar small reptile species. Bycatch animals will experience minimal impact as they will be handled for less than 2 minutes and immediately released once deemed unsuitable for the experiment (e.g. females, sub-adults).