Striped skink (Oligosoma striatum)
|Size||Snout-vent length: 80 mm (2)|
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
This little-known striped skink is one of the most rarely seen lizards in New Zealand (3), and fewer than 120 have ever been found (2). Oligosoma striatum earns its name from the characteristic pale stripes that run down the entire length of its brown, speckled body (2).
Endemic to the North Island of New Zealand, where it is presently known from 40 widely scattered inland locations throughout the central and northern parts. It also occurs on Great Barrier and Little Barrier Island (2).
This striped skink inhabits lowland forest and pastoral farmland. In forests they can be found in or under logs and litter on the forest floor, or in epiphytes, cracks and crevices in dead trunks and limbs. In farmland they live under rotting logs and vegetation (2).
Striped skinks are agile climbers that can dart about with lightening quick movements (3). While it is often found on the ground in damp and swampy areas, it also occurs high in the forest canopy, up to ten meters off the ground (2). The striped skink is active for long periods during the day, but unlike many other lizards, it does not often bask in the warmth of the sunlight (2) (4). It also has periods of activity throughout the night, particularly during wet weather (4). The striped skink feeds primarily on insects, but it will also eat some soft fruit (2). Unlike many reptiles that lay shelled eggs, the striped skink gives birth to three to eight live young during February and March (5). The lifespan of this small lizard is not certain, but an individual in captivity lived for 20 years (2).
The predominant threat to this species is clearing and felling of indigenous forests. The introduction of alien species, such as cats, mustelids and rats, also pose a significant additional threat (2).
Large areas of forest on the North Island are protected, but a degree of degradation still occurs through the impact of browsing herbivores, such as deer and goats (2).
A recovery plan for the striped skink has been created and implemented, but due to the biology, ecology and distribution of this species being so poorly known, the plan focuses on research and surveys rather than management (2), and also includes raising public awareness of this threatened and mysterious lizard (4). Some progress has been made, but further measures have been proposed, which include plans for the eradication of rodents from Little Barrier Island, and a long term aim to sterilise domestic cats and control feral cat numbers on Great Barrier Island (4).
For further information on the striped skink see:
- New Zealand’s Department of Conservation:
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- Endemic: a species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Mustelids: a family of carnivores with short, stocky legs, an elongated body and long sharp canine teeth. Includes otters, weasels, ferrets and badgers.
IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
- Whitaker, A.H. (1998) Striped Skink Oligosoma striatum Recovery Plan. Biodiversity Recovery Group, Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.
New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (August, 2007)
- Towns, D.R., Neilson, K.A. and Whitaker, A.H. (2002) North Island Oligosoma spp. Skink Recovery Plan. Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.
- Patterson, G.B. and Daugherty, C.H. (1995) Reinstatement of the genus Oligosoma (Reptilia: Lacertilia: Scinidae). Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 25(3): 327 - 331.