The mountain skink (Liopholis montana) usually lives, as you would imagine, on mountains - specifically on peaks in the Great Dividing Range in eastern Victoria and southern New South Wales.
So it was quite a surprise when Monash University reptile researcher Jules Farquhar stumbled onto a colony of them in the middle of the Wombat State Forest, an entirely different habitat and altitude where they'd never been spotted before.
Mr Farquhar, a herpetology research officer, and his friends were bushwalking through the forest when they found the skinks.
"When you find a species you're familiar with but in a location it's not known from, you instantly connect the dots and realise it's significant - we were absolutely elated," he said.
"We realised the significance of it straight away, we took some photos of some individuals and the surrounding habitat, we knew it would be a significant range extension."
The mountain skink's "about the size of an iPhone", Mr Farquhar said, with specific scale patterns, which distinguish it from a similar species known in the area.
Interestingly, among the skinks spotted, several juveniles were seen, which indicates a family group living together.
"They're medium size ground-dwelling skink lizards, they retreat to burrows beneath rocks and logs, and just like other members, they live in family groups, so we saw evidence of that, adults and juveniles would run into the same burrows," he explained.
"That's relatively rare in the reptile world, living together."
The discovery is significant because not much is known about mountain skinks yet, and any information is useful to protect populations in the mountains from climate threats.
"One thing that's happening that's a big problem for alpine reptiles, these species that are relatively cold-adapted are going to be pushed higher up mountains, to track their ancestral conditions they've evolved under," Mr Farquhar said.
"If it gets warmer, they have to move further up the peak, and there's only so far up the mountain until you move into the heavens of extinction."
By introducing new genes from a different population, like the lower-altitude dwelling Wombat State Forest skinks, the mountain-living skinks could slowly adapt to the changing climate.
Already, genetic work at the Arthur Rylah Institute is under way to find out if the Wombat State Forest population is an "evolutionary significant unit".
"We're going to see how genetically divergent it is from the far-removed populations in eastern Victoria," Mr Farquhar said.
"These peripheral populations are usually genetically unique, they are in a very different environment, and therefore they're a different genetic lineage and might be exposed to unique threats that the species might not be facing in other parts.
"Genetic work has been done on L. montana in NSW, and it basically shows where they occur on different peaks, they're genetically divergent on different mountaintops."
That's important because the skinks face several threats in their forest home, he said, most of them man-made like introduced predators, logging and displacing rocks for trails, and potentially controlled burns.
"These threats aren't unique to this species of lizard, they're facing most species in Australia, but it might be concerning for this population given the small size of population and the fact it's so isolated, so even though they might be resilient to any one of the threats, the combined effect might be enough to cause it to go extinct," he said.
Mr Farquhar has published a natural history note on the range extension, his fifth paper, in Herpetology Notes.
He encouraged citizen scientists to use apps like iNaturalist to keep an eye out for critters - already, an amateur camera trap had spotted more mountain skinks in the forest.
"I'm becoming increasingly passionate about the importance of documenting biological phenomena, even if it seems relatively trivial, because it all adds up to more serious scientific endeavours," he said.
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"We knew this needed to be communicated and known, it needed to be documented, in permanent peer-reviewed scientific literature.
"I wonder how often do amateur naturalists see this and don't document it - I'm writing a paper at the moment entirely predicated on iNaturalist records.
"The huge gamechanger for iNaturalist is that we have photos, so we can model differences in appearance."
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