Mike Wall

Mike Wall

Position: PhD student
Year: 2003 - 2005
Phone: N/A
Fax: N/A
Location: N/A

Current Research


The flap-footed lizards, or Pygopodidae, are an endemic Australasian family characterized by extreme body elongation and virtual limblessness. Most of the 35 or so species retain the food habits of their gecko ancestors, preying upon insects and spiders. The genus Lialis, however, is convergent on saurophagous snakes both ecologically and morphologically. It eats other lizards, primarily skinks, and possesses pointed, recurved, hinged teeth, a highly kinetic skull, and an extremely long, attenuate snout.


'm studying the ecology of Lialis burtonis in an attempt to understand why it has diverged so markedly from other pygopodids. I'd also like to know how it has managed to persist on a continent dominated by small, saurophagous snakes. What, if anything, does Lialis do differently than its competitors, and what consequences do such differences have on foraging success and fitness? As Lialis is found virtually continent-wide in every conceivable habitat type, whatever particular strategies it has evolved seem to be working.

In addition to shedding light on the biology of a fascinating lizard, I hope to learn a bit about the evolution of "snakiness" in general. As an independent origin of a functionally limbless creature that eats relatively very large prey, Lialis offers an opportunity to investigate this phenomenon.


Prival, D. P., J. E. Borgmeyer, andM. D. Wall. 2001. Herpetological inventories of Sonoran Desert region national parks, 2001.National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Program Report. National Park Service, Tucson, Arizona, USA.
Goode, M. J., andM. D. Wall. 2002. Ecology and management of tiger rattlesnakes at the urban fringe.Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program Heritage Report. Arizona Game and Fish Department, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
Shine, R., andM. Wall. 2004. Why is intraspecific niche partitioning more common in
snakes than in lizards?  In press subject to final review inForaging Behaviour in Lizards(S. Reilly, L. McBrayer, and D. Miles, eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
4. Shine, R., M. Lemaster,M. Wall, T. Langkilde, and R. T. Mason.  2004.  Why did the snake cross the road? Effects of roads on movement and mate-location by garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis).Ecology and Society 9:9. URL:http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol9/iss1/art9.
Shine, R., R. P. O'Donnell, T. Langkilde,M. D. Wall, and R. T. Mason. 2005. Snakes in search of sex: the relationship between mate-locating ability and mating success in male garter snakes.Animal Behaviour 69:1251-1258.
Shine, R., T. Langkilde,M. Wall, and R.T. Mason.  2005.  Alternative male mating tactics in garter snakes. Animal Behaviour 70:387-396.
Shine, R., T. Langkilde,M. Wall, and R. T. Mason.  2004.  The fitness correlates of scalation asymmetry in garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis). Functional Ecology 19:306-314.
Shine, R., andM. Wall. 2004. Ecological divergence between the sexes in reptiles.Pages 221-253 inSexual Segregation in Vertebrates(P. Neuhaus and K. E. Ruckstuhl, eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Shine, R.,M. Wall, T. Langkilde, and R. T. Mason.  2005.  Scaling the heights: thermally-driven arboreality in snakes.Journal of Thermal Biology 30:179-185.
Shine, R.,M. Wall, T. Langkilde, and R. T. Mason.  2005.  Battle of the sexes: forcibly-inseminating male garter snakes target courtship to more vulnerable females.Animal Behaviour 70:1133-1140.
Shine, R.,M. Wall, T. Langkilde, and R. T. Mason.  2005.  Do female garter snakes evade males to avoid harassment or to enhance mate quality?American Naturalist 165:660-668.
12. Shine, R., T. Langkilde,M. Wall, and R. T. Mason.  2006. Temporal dynamics of emergence and dispersal of garter snakes from a communal den in Manitoba.Wildlife Research 33:103-111.
Wall, M., and R. Shine.  2006.  Dangerous prey: how do snake-like lizards (Lialis burtonisGray, Pygopodidae) subdue their lizard prey?Biological Journal of the Linnean Society:in press.
Wall, M., and R. Shine.  2006.  The relationship between foraging ecology and lizard chemoreception: can a snake analogue (Lialis burtonisGray, Pygopodidae) detect prey scent?Journal of Chemical Ecology:in press.

Eumbungerie Lagoon

Conference Presentations

Wall, M. D., and M. J. Goode. April 2002.Current Research on the Herpetology of the Sonoran Desert, Tucson, AZ, USA. Oral presentation on tiger rattlesnake reproduction.
Wall, M.April 2003. Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour, Canberra, ACT.  Oral presentation on ecology and evolution of Burton’s legless lizard.
Wall, M.June 2003. Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, Manaus, Brazil.  Oral presentation on ecology and evolution of Burton’s legless lizard.