Falla’s skink (Oligosoma fallai)

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Falla's skink
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Falla’s skink fact file

Falla’s skink description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyScincidae
GenusOligosoma (1)

One of New Zealand’s largest skinks (2), Falla’s skink (Oligosoma fallai) has, like other skinks, a roughly cylindrical body and short limbs (4). Its mottled brown body, speckled with flecks of yellow, provides camouflage in its natural habitat (5).

Also known as
Three Kings skink.
Synonyms
Leiolopisma fallai.
Size
Maximum snout-vent length: c. 140 mm (2)
Maximum tail length: c. 150 mm (3)
Average weight: 44.5 g (3)
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Falla’s skink biology

Falla’s skinks are omnivorous lizards that feed on invertebrates, seeds, leaves, fleshy fruits, such as the small reddish-purple fruits of the Ngaio tree (Myoporum laetum), and even the spilled regurgitations of sea birds (2) (3). For most of the year, Falla’s skinks are active during the day and are most energetic on warm, sunny days, however, at times this lizard may also be active during the night (2) (3).

Mating is believed to take place in autumn, with live young being born primarily during the summer (2) (6), but some give birth as early as February or as late as the following autumn (3). It is thought that not all female Falla's skinks give birth every year, but those that do give birth to an average of five young (3).

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Falla’s skink range

Falla’s skink is endemic to the Three Kings Islands, a group of islands situated 60 kilometres off Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of the North Island, New Zealand (2) (3). Within this island group, Falla’s skink inhabits at least seven islands and islets (2).

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Falla’s skink habitat

The Three Kings Islands are rugged, mostly cliff-bound islands, within which Falla’s skink inhabits scrub and forest, particularly low, open forest (2) (3).

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Falla’s skink status

Falla's skink is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Falla’s skink threats

In the past, the habitat of the Three Kings Islands was heavily modified by its Maori inhabitants and by the introduction of goats. It is not known what effect this may have had on skink populations, but with the removal of goats from the islands in 1946, habitat degradation is no longer believed to be a great threat to Falla’s skink (2).

Today, the most significant threats are the possibility of a predator introduction and catastrophic climatic events, which due to the restricted distribution of Falla’s skink, could potentially impact the entire population. Introduced predators are of particular concern as some of the islands in the Three Kings group are less than a kilometre apart, meaning that introduced predators, such as Norway rats, could swim between them (2).

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Falla’s skink conservation

As introduced predators pose the greatest potential threat to this species, an action plan for Oligosoma skinks developed in 2002 focuses on measures which could be taken to ensure against this happening (2). In recent years, introduced rodents have been removed from numerous islands around the North Island (2), which will help lessen the chance of their introduction to the Three Kings Islands. The plan recommends that the Three King Islands should be checked for rodents every six months (2).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on Falla’s skink: 

  • Towns, D.R., Neilson, K.A. and Whitaker, A.H. (2002) North Island Oligosoma spp. Skink Recovery Plan 2002–2012. Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand. Available at:
    www.doc.govt.nz
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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone.
Omnivorous
Feeding on both plants and animals.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Towns, D.R., Neilson, K.A. and Whitaker, A.H. (2002) North Island Oligosoma spp. Skink Recovery Plan 2002–2012. Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.
  3. Parrish, G.R. and Gill, B.J. (2003) Natural history of the lizards of the Three Kings Islands, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology, 30: 205 - 220.
  4. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Auckland Zoo (May, 2008)
    http://www.aucklandzoo.co.nz
  6. Patterson, G.B. and Daugherty, C.H. (1995) Reinstatement of the genus Oligosoma (Reptilia: Lacertilia: Scincidae). Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 25(3): 327 - 331.
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Image credit

Falla's skink  
Falla's skink

© Paddy Ryan

Paddy Ryan
Ryan Photographic
2802 East 132nd Circle
Thornton
CO
80241
USA
Tel: +01 (303) 457 9795
paddyaryan@aol.com
http://www.ryanphotographic.com/

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