Jordan limbless skink (Ophiomorus latastii)

GenusOphiomorus (1)

The Jordan limbless skink is classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The Jordan limbless skink (Ophiomorus latasti) is a poorly-known lizard which receives its scientific name from Fernand Lastaste, the French zoologist who discovered this species (2). As in other Ophiomorus species, the body is elongated and cylindrical, and the limbs have been lost entirely as an adaptation to its predominantly subterranean lifestyle (3) (4) (5). The snout of the Jordan limbless skink is blunt and conical, and it has small eyes with moveable lower eyelids (5) (6).

Little information is available on this small skink, but skinks in general have smooth, overlapping scales (6) (7) (8), and most have brown, grey or black colouration (8).

The range of the Jordan limbless skink includes western Jordan, southwest Syria and central and northern Israel. There is also a possibility that a population exists within Lebanon (1).

A fossorial species, the Jordan limbless skink lives beneath the surface of the sand in humid areas where it is able to burrow into the substrate (1) (3) (4).

Very little information is available on the biology of the Jordan limbless skink. However, like other skinks it is likely to feed mainly on arthropods (8).

During the breeding season, male skinks become aggressive and defensive displays are common, including head bobbing and even combat. The male will often lick the female before mating, and will usually hold the female in a mating grip during copulation. Most skinks lay eggs, with yolk deposits within the egg supplying energy to the developing embryo. Some species lay fairly large clutches of eggs, often in a protective crevice or cavity with high humidity (8). Although some species of skink guard their eggs until they hatch, most abandon them (8).

Like other skinks, the Jordan limbless skink is likely to rely on chemical and visual cues to communicate (8).

Threats to the Jordan limbless skink are not well known, and the lack of information on this species makes its conservation status difficult to determine. However, this species is believed to be locally threatened in northern Jordan due to the spread of agriculture in the region (1).

There are populations of the Jordan limbless skink within the Wadi Al Wawjib protected area in Jordan. In Israel, this species is protected under national legislation (1). No other specific conservation methods are currently thought to be in place for this poorly-known skink.

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
  2. Beolens, B., Watkins, M. and Grayson, M. (2011) The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  3. Fisher, W.B. (1968) The Cambridge History of Iran. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  4. Disi, A.M. (2011) Review of the lizard fauna of Jordan. Zoology in the Middle East, 3: 90-102.
  5. Poulakakis, N., Pakaki, V., Mylonas, M. and Lymberakis, P. (2008) Molecular phylogeny of the Greek legless skink Ophiomorus punctatissimus (Squamata: Scincidae): The impact of the Mid-Aegean trench in its phylogeography. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 47: 396-402.
  6. Ananjeva, N.B., Orlov, N.L., Khalikov, R.G., Darevsky, I.S., Ryabov, S.A. and Barabanov, A.V. (2006) The Reptiles of Northern Eurasia. Pensoft Publishers, Sofia, Bulgaria.
  7. Pianka, E.R. and Vitt, L.J. (2003) Lizards. University of California Press, California.
  8. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.