Named after the bird enthusiast Herbert Deignan (3) (4), the Deignan tree skink (Lankascincus deignani) is a small reptile found only in the central highlands of Sri Lanka (1) (2).
Like other skinks, the Deignan tree skink has glossy, overlapping scales and an elongated, cylindrical body (5). The scales on this species’ back and sides have distinct grooves, but those on the underside of its body are smooth. The Deignan tree skink’s limbs are short in comparison to its body (4). The reduction of limbs in skinks is common, with some species having no visible limbs at all (5).
The Deignan tree skink is one of the larger Lankascincus species (2), and like other members of this genus it has a slender body and pointed head (6). This species’ body is dark olive-brown above, becoming lighter brown on the back and towards the base of the tail. The chin and the underside of the body and tail are creamy white, and there are white spots on the sides and limbs. The Deignan tree skink has black bars or spots on its jaws (4).
- Also known as
- Deignan’s tree skink, Deignan's lankaskink.
- Sphenomorphus deignani.
- Snout-vent length: 4 - 5.8 cm (2)
Deignan tree skink biology
The Deignan tree skink is an egg-laying species, producing two eggs in each clutch (1) (2) (6). In general, members of the Lankascincus genus lay eggs under the leaf litter or under stones or debris (6).
The Deignan tree skink is insectivorous (1) (5) and is diurnal, hunting during the day (2) (7). Like other skinks, this species is likely to actively seek out its prey (5).
Little other information is available on the biology of this small lizard. In other skink species, the males become aggressive during the breeding season, with displays and fights being common (5).
Deignan tree skink range
The Deignan tree skink is found in the tropical and subtropical rainforests of Sri Lanka, specifically in the mountainous areas of the central highlands, at 600 to 1,700 metres above sea level (1).
Deignan tree skink habitat
This skink lives in moist leaf litter in mountainous regions of Sri Lankan rainforest (1). Despite the Deignan tree skink’s name, it is mainly found living among the leaf litter on the ground or in dark, moist places under stones and logs, rather than in trees (1) (2) (6) (7).
Deignan tree skink status
The Deignan tree skink is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Deignan tree skink threats
The Deignan tree skink is considered to be under threat due to its very restricted distribution and the specific and highly fragmented nature of its habitat. At present, the largest threats to this species’ habitat are agricultural practices, logging and firewood collection, which destroy and disrupt the rainforest environment on which this skink relies (1).
Deignan tree skink conservation
There is no specific action being taken to preserve the Deignan tree skink, nor are there any precise figures available regarding its current population. For this reason, further studies are needed into the Deignan tree skink’s numbers (1).
Conservation measures are needed to reduce the rate of deforestation occurring within the range of the Deignan tree skink, and protected areas need to be established (1). A general system of controls, monitoring and sustainable use also needs to be put in place to tackle the problem of deforestation in Sri Lanka, which would help to ensure the survival of this species and many others (8).
Find out more
Find out more about the Deignan tree skink and other reptiles:
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- Active during the day.
- A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
IUCN Red List (January, 2012)
Greer, A.E. (1991) Lankascincus, a new genus of scincid lizards from Sri Lanka, with descriptions of three new species. Journal of Herpetology, 25(1): 59-64.
Beolens, B., Watkins, M. and Grayson, M. (2011) The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
Taylor, E.H. (1950) Ceylonese lizards of the family Scincidae. The University of Kansas Science Bulletin, 33(2): 481-518.
Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Wickramasinghe, L.J.M., Rodrigo, R., Dayawansa, N. and Jayantha, U.L.D. (2007) Two new species of Lankascincus (Squamata: Scincidae) from Sripada Sanctuary (Peak Wilderness), in Sri Lanka. Zootaxa, 1612: 1-24.
Sri Lankan Reptiles - Family Scincidae (Skinks) (January, 2012)
De Zoysa, M. (2001) A review of forest policy trends in Sri Lanka. Policy Trend Report, 2001: 57-68.