Bermuda skink (Plestiodon longirostris)

Also known as: Bermuda rock lizard, Bermuda rock skink, Bermudian rock lizard, Bermudian rock skink
Synonyms: Eumeces longirostris
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyScincidae
GenusEumeces (1)
SizeSnout-vent length: 75 - 85 mm (adult average) (2)

The Bermuda skink is classified as Critically Endangered (CR - B1+2bcde) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1).

The Bermuda skink is a small robust lizard. The skin is shiny with conspicuous scales and adults are a dark brown/black colour on the back and salmon pink or light grey underneath. Juveniles and hatchlings are a lighter bronze, and have cream and black stripes along the sides. Hatchlings have sky blue tails that gradually fade and become brown/black with age (5). Females retain their stripes longer than males but both sexes eventually become completely dark. The sexes are similar in appearance but it has been observed that males have wider heads relative to their necks (2).

These lizards are the only terrestrial vertebrates endemic to Bermuda (3). Populations are found in isolated pockets all over the mainland and on offshore islands. The greatest known abundances can be found on many of the islets in Castle Harbour and at Spittal Pond, one of the island's largest nature reserves (5).

Inhabits rocky, coastal areas but may also be found in other areas such as old stone quarries and residential sites (2).

Very little is known about the natural ecology of the Bermuda skink but recent research indicates it eats a range of insects and other arthropods including beetles and cockroaches (2), and occasionally the fruit of the prickly pear cactus (4). Individuals may actively forage for food by burrowing with their clawed feet under rocks or in the soil, or will sit and wait for prey to come past them and then give chase (2). Unlike the introduced and more common anole lizards (Anolis spp), the skinks do not climb plants or trees but they are excellent at climbing rocks and stone walls (2). These skinks are more active above ground in the summer months, which led people to believe that they went into winter hibernation; recent results however, show that they are in fact active throughout the year (2).

Populations of the Bermuda skink have been decimated by human activities on the island of Bermuda. Habitat destruction, the introduction of predators and the recent encroachment of rubbish (5), have all contributed to the skink's currently precipitous status.

The Bermuda Skink Project, an initiative of the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo (BAMZ), has been attempting to reach a greater understanding of the ecology and behaviour of these rare lizards (3). These steps are vital if an effective conservation management strategy is to be put into action. Data on population numbers and distribution is also severely lacking and people in Bermuda are encouraged to keep a vigilant eye out for the species (3). BAMZ is also developing captive breeding techniques that may prove vital for supplying individuals for a possible reintroduction campaign (3).

 

Authenticated (20/6/02) by Lisa Kitson (20/6/02), Bermuda Skink Project
http://www.bamz.org/conservation&research/skinkproject.htm

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2002)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. Kitson, L. (2002) Unpublished
  3. Raine, A. (1998) A study of the morphological differentiation, fluctuating asymmetry and the threats facing isolated populations of the critically endangered Bermuda Rock Lizard (Eumeces longirostris). Unpublished MSc. Dissertation, University College, London.
  4. Bermuda Skink Project (May, 2002)
    http://www.bamz.org/conservation&research/skinkproject.htm
  5. Davenport, J., Hills, J., Glasspool, A. & Ward, J. (2001) Threats to the critically endangered endemic Bermudian skink Eumeces longirostris ORYX, 35 (4): 332-339.