Tessellated skink (Trachylepis tessellata)

Synonyms: Mabuya tessellata
GenusTrachylepis (1)

The tessellated skink is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The tessellated skink (Trachylepis tessellata) is a rather poorly-known lizard endemic to the southern Arabian Peninsula (2) (3) (4). Like other skinks (Scincidae species), the tessellated skink has a roughly cylindrical body (5) which is covered in smooth, overlapping scales, underlain with bony plates (3) (5) (6). The tail is longer than the body and, as in other Trachylepis species, the limbs are well developed (6).

Very little information is available on the appearance of the tessellated skink, but it is reported to be highly variable in colouration (2). It is similar in size to the ocellated skink (Chalcides ocellatus), but has more well-developed legs and lacks the ocellated skink’s ‘eye spot’ patterning (3).

Found across the southern Arabian Peninsula, the tessellated skink occurs in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, northern Oman and the United Arab Emirates (2) (3) (4).

The tessellated skink is typically found in or close to wadis, gardens or oases, often on rocky slopes (2) (3) (4).

Very little is currently known about the biology of the tessellated skink. Like other skinks, it is likely to be active during the day and to be an active forager that hunts for a variety of arthropod prey (5). Most skinks are terrestrial (6), and use a range of chemical and visual cues to communicate (5).

Male skinks often become aggressive during the breeding season, performing displays to warn off rivals (5). Like most other skink species, the tessellated skink is likely to lay eggs (5) (6).

The tessellated skink is not currently known to be facing any major threats. However, in some areas its populations are reported to have declined (2).

In countries such as the United Arab Emirates, rapid development and urbanisation are having negative effects on native ecosystems (7), and this could potentially impact populations of the tessellated skink.

There are no known conservation measures currently targeted at the tessellated skink, and very little is currently known about this small reptile.

However, efforts underway to conserve the natural environments of the region may indirectly benefit this species. For example, the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is working in the United Arab Emirates to protect the country’s rich biodiversity (8).

Find out more about the tessellated skink and about reptile conservation:

More information on conservation in the United Arab Emirates:

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:

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2013) 
  2. Fritz, J.P. and Schütte, F. (1988) Skinke aus der Arabischen Republik Jemen. Salamandra, 24(1): 41-52.
  3. Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, London.
  4. van der Kooij, J. (2001) The herpetofauna of the Sultanate of Oman. Part 3: the true lizards, skinks and monitor lizard. Podarcis, 2(1): 15-26.
  5. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  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. WWF: Major environmental threats in the UAE (February, 2012)
  8. The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (February, 2012)