Leopard skink (Ctenotus pantherinus)

loading
Barrow Island leopard skink in habitat

Top facts

  • The leopard skink is a large, stocky species that is coppery-brown in colour with darkly outlined white spots on its body.
  • Unlike other Ctenotus species, the leopard skink is active by both day and night, adapting to foraging in the cooler temperatures of night in order to exploit water-rich termites as a food source.
  • The leopard skink subspecies Ctenotus pantherinus ocellifer is known only from a single specimen collected in New South Wales.
  • Relying mainly on spinifex grass habitats, the leopard skink has the largest range of all the Ctenotus species. 
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Leopard skink fact file

Leopard skink description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyScincidae
GenusCtenotus (1)

Well known for its unusual night-time foraging behaviour (4), the leopard skink (Ctenotus pantherinus) is reddish-brown in colour and has many rows of darkly outlined white spots running along its body (3) (5). Large in size and stoutly built (3), the leopard skink has four subspecies: Ctenotus pantherinus acripes, Ctenotus pantherinus calx, Ctenotus pantherinus ocellifer and Ctenotus pantherinus pantherinus (1). The Barrow Island subspecies, C. p. acripes, differs from the rest in having black claws, ridged scales under its toes and feet, and an increased number of scales on its body (6)

Also known as
Barrow Island leopard skink, leopard ctenotus, panther skink.
Synonyms
Egernia whitei carnarae, Lygosoma breviunguis, Lygosoma ocellatum, Lygosoma ocelliferum, Lygosoma pantherinum.
Size
Length: 18 - 22 cm (2)
Snout-vent length: 9.4 cm (3)
Top

Leopard skink biology

Very little information is available on the biology of the leopard skink (2).

Ctenotusspecies are known to be active solely during the day time, but the leopard skink is unusual within its genus as it also remains active at night to forage. This remarkable behaviour is believed to be due to its dietary preference for termites, which are nocturnal and occur in higher numbers in the cooler temperatures of the evening (4) (8). Between 70 and 90 percent of this species’ invertebrate diet is made up of the water-rich insect, and the leopard skink’s ability to exploit this food source by adapting to the constraints of low night-time temperatures also lowers the risk of predation by birds. Although this species remains more active during the day time when temperatures are high, foraging primarily takes place at night (4).

Ctenotus skinks respond rapidly when disturbed, retreating quickly from the source into a burrow, if available. Many skink species are able to shed their tails as an escape mechanism from predators, and it is possible that the leopard skink also displays this behaviour when captured. Skinks are oviparous, laying eggs instead of giving birth to live young (9).

Top

Leopard skink range

Of all the Ctenotus species, the leopard skink has the largest range (4), and is found across Australia in New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, and Southern and Western Australia (1). C. p. ocellifer is known only from a single specimen from New South Wales (2). C. p. acripes is the only leopard skink subspecies to occur on Barrow Island, off the coast of Western Australia (5), although this subspecies has also been recorded in parts of Queensland and Northern Territory (6)

Top

Leopard skink habitat

Members of the Ctenotus genus thrive in sandy or stony, arid environments (6) (7). The leopard skink is reported to occur in spinifex grassland habitats (4), particularly where Triodia cover is present (2) (7).

Top

Leopard skink status

The leopard skink is not yet classified on the IUCN Red List. 

Top

Leopard skink threats

Although there are no known threats to the leopard skink at present, the subspecies C. p. ocellifer is listed as endangered in New South Wales. Identified threats include habitat fragmentation and degradation caused by the clearing of its habitat, grazing and badly managed fire regimes, as well as predation by foxes and cats, and drought (2).

Top

Leopard skink conservation

Suggested recovery actions for the leopard skink in New South Wales have been to control pest populations of foxes, cats and rabbits, manage fire regimes so as to not burn all habitats at the same time, maintain vital spinifex cover and prevent clearing of this species’ habitat (2).

Top

Find out more

Find out more information on the leopard skink:

Find out more about the conservation of Australian reptiles:

Top

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

Top

Glossary

Genus
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.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
Oviparous
An animal that reproduces by laying eggs, which hatch outside the mother’s body.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Top

References

  1. The Reptile Database (April, 2013)
    http://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species?genus=Ctenotus&species=pantherinus
  2. New South Wales Government: Threatened species profile - Leopard ctenotus (April, 2013)
    http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10869
  3. Wilson, S. (2005) A Field Guide to Reptiles of Queensland. New Holland Publishers, Sydney.
  4. Gordon, C., Dickman, C. and Thompson, M. (2010) What factors allow opportunistic nocturnal activity in a primarily diurnal desert lizard (Ctenotus pantherinus)? Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A,156: 255-261.
  5. Moro, D. and MacAulay, I. (2010) A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Barrow Island. Chevron Australia, Perth. Available at:
    http://www.chevronaustralia.com/environment/protectingenvironment/nature-books.aspx
  6. Storr, G. (1978) Notes on the Ctenotus (Lacertilia, Scincidae) of Queensland. Records of the Western Australian Museum, 6(3): 319-332.
  7. Wilson, S. (2012) Australian Lizards: A Natural History. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
  8. Robin, L., Dickman, C. and Martin, M. (2011) Desert Channels: The Impulse to Conserve. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.  
  9. Michael, D. and Lindenmayer, D. (2010) Reptiles of the NSW Murray Catchment: A Guide to Their Identification. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
X
Close

Image credit

Barrow Island leopard skink in habitat  
Barrow Island leopard skink in habitat

© Greg Harold / Auscape International

Auscape International
PO Box 1024,
Bowral
NSW
25a76
Australia
Tel: (+61) 2 4885 2245
Fax: (+61) 2 4885 2715
sales@auscape.com.au
http://www.auscape.com.au

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Leopard skink (Ctenotus pantherinus) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is found in Barrow Island. Visit our Barrow Island topic page to find out more.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog RSS