Ctenotus preying on King Cricket

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Photographed in situ [1]

A lowlands plain-backed skink (Ctenotus essingtonii) takes down a king cricket in Berry Springs, Australia. King crickets belong to the Anostostomatidae, a family famous for New Zealand’s giant weta (Deinacrida sp.). Like wetas, king crickets are powerful insects with large mandibles, seemingly tough to overpower by a similarly-sized skink. I watched this golden Ctenotus scamper around briskly, then suddenly charge and pin down the cricket. Just as a large cat goes for a mammal’s throat, the lizard flipped the cricket over to clamp down on the soft underside, a kink in the surface of sclerotized armor. It’s been a mystery to me how small lizards manage to consume large prey items, especially since biting and tearing is unusual in lizards. This one repetitively bit the underside of the abdomen, squishing out and ingesting just the soft tissues.

Filmed in situ [1]
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Another skink from Berry Springs, a red-sided rainbow skink (Carlia rufilatus); photographed in situ [1]

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