Rights: The University of Waikato Published 3 November 2009 Download

Fast skinks are assumed to be more able to escape from predators, find a mate and find food. In this video clip, Dr Kelly Hare, from the University of Otago, talks about measuring the sprint speed of skinks using a specially designed racetrack.

Point of interest
A fast skink is one that has a faster sprint speed than its siblings or other members of the same species


A lot of people use sprint speed as a measure of performance or the ability of a lizard to escape from predators or find mates or catch food, so a faster individual would be assumed to be optimal and able to survive. So what I’m doing is measuring the sprint speed of these little guys, and then after they have been released into the field, I will follow them for 6 months, and see whether it really is true that the fast individuals are the ones that survive.

We use a racetrack, which is a long tube with photocells set at specific distances down the tube. And as the skink passes one of these photocells, it breaks the beam, and when it passes the next photocell, it will break that beam as well, so we can actually calculate how long it takes it to run that distance between those two photocells. And the way we get the skink to run down the racetrack is to use a paint brush which can be very scary to a little skink, and we just follow it down the racetrack with a paint brush and it breaks all those beams, and then we are able to calculate speed using a simple equation – distance divided by time.