Chalcides (Chalcides simonyi)

Synonyms: Chalcides polylepis occidentalis, Chalcides polylepis simonyi
Spanish: LISNEJA
GenusChalcides (1)

Chalcides simonyi is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Endemic to the Canary Islands, Chalcides simonyi is a rare species of skink threatened by global climate change (1). It is a member of the genus Chalcides, which comprises 19 or more species with extremely complicated taxonomy (2). As such, there is much debate surrounding the relationship of Chalcides simonyi to other Chalcides species. It was once considered a subspecies of the many-scaled cylindrical skink (Chalcides polylepis), but it is now regarded as a species in its own right, in part due to unique genetic and morphological characteristics (1) (2). 

Like other species in the genus Chalcides, Chalcides simonyi has rather short limbs and a cylindrical body. It also has well-developed, moveable eyelids, an open ear aperture and large scales above the nostrils (3).

Found only in the Canary Islands, Chalcides simonyi occurs on Fuerteventura, where it is predominantly found on the centre of the island with an isolated population in the south, as well as Lanzarote and Lobos (1).

Chalcides simonyi is found in fields, orchards, gardens and rocky areas with Mediterranean-type shrubby vegetation (1).

A rather enigmatic species, very little is known about the specific biology and behaviour of Chalcides simonyi. However, like most skinks, it is probably an active forager that seeks out its prey of insects and other arthropods. Communication is carried out through a variety of chemical and visual cues, such as head bobbing, and aggressive displays may be used by male skinks to defend basking sites or territories (4). 

Although skinks lay eggs, Chalcides simonyi is instead thought to give birth to fully-formed young (1). The embryos are most likely nourished internally by a large yolk deposit (4).

Perhaps the most threatened skink species in the Canaries (5), Chalcides simonyi has a severely fragmented distribution due to the continuing loss of its habitat. Climate change is the most significant threat to this species, as the increasing frequency of drought, leading to more arid conditions, is causing soil erosion and the degradation of its habitat. Feral and domestic cats also pose an additional threat to Chalcides simonyi, while the largest population of this species was most likely destroyed by a volcanic eruption in the 18th century (1).

Although Chalcides simonyi has not been the target of any known conservation measures, it is present in a number of protected areas (1), including Parque Natural Archipélago Chinijo (5). 

Protected areas have long been considered one of the most effective tools to conserve biodiversity, but their effectiveness in securing species under rapid climate change is uncertain (6). Therefore, researching the effects of climate change on this species and monitoring its population status may be considered a conservation priority for Chalcides simonyi.

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  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
  2. Brown, R.P. and Pestano, J. (1998) Phylogeography of skinks (Chalcides) in the Canary Islands inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences. Molecular Ecology, 7: 1183-1191.
  3. Ananjeva, N.B., Orlov, N.L., Khalikov, R.G., Darevsky, I.S. and Barabanov, A. (2006) The Reptiles of Northern Eurasia: Taxonomic Diversity, Distribution, Conservation Status. Pensoft Publishers, Sofia, Bulgaria.
  4. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptile and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Nogales, M., de Leon, L. and Gomez, R. (1998) On the presence of the endemic skink Chalcides simonyi Steind., 1891 in Lanzarote (Canary Islands). Amphibia-Reptilia, 19: 427-430.
  6. Carvalho, S.B., Brito, J.C., Crespo, E.J. and Possingham, H.P. (2010) From climate change predictions to actions – conserving vulnerable animal groups in hotspots at a regional scale. Global Change Biology, 16(12): 3257-3270.