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Plague of kangaroos threatens one of Australia's last remaining original native grasslands
Date:5/21/2008

th continent since Europeans settled there over 200 years ago. Where Canberra sprawls today there were once natural grasslands that used to dominate the landscape of south-eastern Australia. Five percent of the former large native grasslands have survived in the capital territory, and only one percent in South-eastern Australia. This dramatic loss has resulted in the listing of natural temperate grasslands as one of Australia's most threatened ecosystem. The remaining grasslands in the Canberra region are now threatened by urban developments, drought or by too many kangaroos. Just a few years ago the capital's inhabitants were delighted to hear of the rediscovery of a fellow inhabitant believed to be extinct. The grassland earless dragon (Tympanocrytis pinguicolla) is one of the rarest reptile species in the world. Only a few populations on the outskirts of Canberra have survived. These tiny lizards, which weigh just five grams, are so good at camouflaging themselves that for a long time they were thought to be extinct. That was until 1991 when biologist Dr Will Osborne of Institute for Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra happened to push aside a stone with his foot: "What was suddenly revealed underneath was one of the most exciting moments of my life. To this day I don't know how I managed to lift my young son down from my shoulders so quickly to leap after the lizard and to catch it."

The earless dragons had been considered lost for thirty years. "It's difficult to make plans to conserve a species when so little is known about them," says its rediscoverer Osborne. Over recent years his colleagues, together with researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig have therefore been studying the reptile's habits in order to gain a better understanding of the grassland ecosystem. Like fairytale dragons, the grassland earless lives in burrows, similar to a cave that are provided by spiders. Those spiders' holes offer
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Contact: Tilo Arnhold
presse@ufz.de
49-341-235-1635
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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Plague of kangaroos threatens one of Australia's last remaining original native grasslands
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