Striped-tailed delma

Common name: striped-tailed delma

Scientific name: Delma labialis (Delma has no meaning; labialis = notably lipped)

Family: Pygopodidae

Conservation status: This species is listed as Least Concern in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and nationally (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999).


The striped-tailed delma is a legless lizard, coloured reddish brown or grey brown above and cream underneath. Distinguishing features include a series of alternating cream and yellow-brown vertical bars on the lips and side of the head. It grows to approximately 10 cm in length with 16 rows of mid-body scales and a long and rounded snout. The tail is four times the length of the body.

Habitat and distribution

The striped-tailed delma is found in low open tropical forest containing Eucalypt platyphylla, open forests with Allocasuarina and Xanthorrhoea and open woodlands with a grassy understorey in mainland areas. On islands and in coastal areas it has been recorded from wet sclerophyll forest.

This species is found only in Queensland and a significant proportion of its range is confined to the Queensland Brigalow Belt (QBB) bioregion. The striped-tailed delma is known from only a few localities on the central Queensland coast around the Townsville region and south to Keswick Island, off Mackay. It has also been recorded on several other islands including Magnetic, South Mole and Shaw Islands.

Life history and behaviour

The species is diurnal (active during the day) and because it is extremely cautious, it is usually only seen very briefly. Refuge is sought beneath leaf litter, logs and sheets of iron.

Female delmas lay two eggs per clutch. The eggs hatch in approximately 70 days.

The diet of this species consists of a variety of arthropods, such as insects, spiders and scorpions.

Threatening processes

Inappropriate fire regimes and removal of refuge sites (woody debris and rocks) are suspected to threaten this species. Other potential threats include habitat loss and degradation through urban development and overgrazing.

Recovery actions

  • Incorporate ecological fire management guidelines into property and reserve planning for key habitat areas.
  • Conduct field surveys to clarify the species geographic range, habitat preferences and the extent of its occurrence in existing reserves to better inform management.
  • Identify key habitat throughout the Brigalow Belt bioregion and priority areas for conservation in local government regions and develop management guidelines to protect these areas on private and state controlled land.
  • Negotiate management agreements with landholders that are in line with recommended management guidelines to protect key habitat and priority areas.
  • Implement monitoring programs in key habitat and priority conservation areas.
  • Adopt a collaborative approach to reptile conservation and encourage involvement from government agencies, regional Natural Resource Management (NRM) bodies, industry groups, indigenous groups, landholders and the community.

What can you do to help this species?

  • Avoid removing fallen logs, leaf litter and rocks in striped-tailed delma habitat as this disturbs and diminishes refuge sites.
  • Become involved in community-based projects (e.g. fencing remnants to reduce grazing impacts, weed and feral predator control, reptile monitoring and field surveys) and help protect habitat across a suite of land tenures, particularly on non-reserved lands.
  • In areas of known and potential habitat, implement appropriate grazing regimes to alleviate grazing pressure (if confirmed as a threat).

Related information

Cogger HG, Cameron EE, Sadlier RA & Eggler P. 1993. The Action Plan for Australian Reptiles. Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra.

Department of the Environment and Heritage (2006). Delma labialis in Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra.

Wilson S. 2005, A field guide to reptiles of Queensland, Reed New Holland, Sydney.