Lab of Evolutionary Genetics and Sociality

Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia


Welcome to LEGS! We mostly work on aspects of sociality and conservation using lizards as our study organisms. Sociality varies greatly in these lizards from species living in large family groups to species that are mostly solitary. A lot of our research has a molecular ecology focus as we are interested in the mechanisms of pair bonding and sociality often including interactions with parasites. We have two main species we focus on, the monogamous sleepy lizard (Tiliqua rugosa) and the family living (Egernia stokesii).  Another major focus is the conservation of the endangered pygmy bluetongue (Tiliqua adelaidensis).

Mike Gardner’s interest in the evolution of sociality began with the Egernia group lizards, which includes the highly social gidgee skinks (Egernia stokesii). He then expanded his research to include sleepy lizards after the passing of Mike Bull and Dale Burzacott. Sleepy lizards have an interesting social system as successful mating pairs will mate for life. The sleepy lizard data set that Mike G inherited from Mike B contains a list of sleepy lizards that have lived at the study site since 1982! The continuation of this survey is one of the main activities for Mike G and his team. This data set is part of one of the longest running continuous data collections in the world (celebrating 40 years in 2021). Mike G has also taken a leading role in the pygmy bluetongue (Tiliqua adelaidensis) translocation work which aims to conserve this endangered species that was thought to be extinct before its rediscovery in South Australia in 1992.

You can read more about the legacy of the sleepy lizard work here or listen here.

Flinders University with the support of generous donors, have supported Mike G to continue work on the sleepy lizard since 2018. We are searching for further support to supplement funding awarded from the Herman Slade Foundation and the Australian Research Council. Please visit here if you would like to contribute.

Photo credit: Anika Gardner