Skinks (Scincidae) are typically small lizards with smooth, shiny scales and elongate, cylindrical bodies (2), not usually exceeding 12 centimetres in total length (3). In most species, the long, tapering tail is easily shed as a defence mechanism against predators, and can be regenerated (2) (3). Their heads are generally cone-shaped and somewhat flattened, with a long snout, though males of some species develop broad heads, which is thought to be an adaptation to aggressive competition during the breeding season (2) (3). The tongue is broad, has an arrowhead-shaped tip and is covered with serrated scales (3). Skinks are most frequently striped or otherwise patterned (2), but Vesey-Fitzgerald’s burrowing skink is uniformly dark in colour. Vesey-Fitzgerald’s burrowing skink has only small forelimbs, which is not unusual as several species of skink show various degrees of limb loss and some have lost their limbs completely (3).
- Also known as
- Vesey’s skink.
Little is known about the biology of Vesey-Fitzgerald’s burrowing skink, although we do know that it is an egg-laying species (1). Eggs of skinks are usually laid as single clutches, and may be guarded or abandoned, but in some species they are laid communally. Clutches are typically small in this lizard family, and limited to just one or two eggs in some species (3).
Skinks are usually carnivorous and most are diurnal, although some are nocturnal or crepuscular (3).
This Seychelles endemic is known from the islands of Mahé, Silhouette, Praslin, Curieuse, Félicité, La Digue and Frégate (1) (4).
As its common name suggests, this is a burrowing species, usually found amongst leaf-litter in lowland forest habitats up to 400 metres above sea level. This species appears unable to tolerate disturbance to its forest habitat (1).
Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Due to its dependence on forest habitat, this skink’s severely fragmented population is highly vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation, largely resulting from the spread of alien plants. The decline in extent and quality of its forest habitat is particularly acute on Mahé and Silhouette islands. In addition, introduced tenrecs (Tenrec ecaudatus) are thought to be predators of Vesey-Fitzgerald’s burrowing skink on Mahé and Praslin, and primarily responsible for the rarity of the species on the islands.
Although this species is thought to be present in the Morne Seychellois National Park, the largest population (42 percent of the total) is found on the unprotected island of Silhouette, which, it has been advocated, should be included in a new protected area (1).
- Active at dusk and/or dawn.
- Active during the day.
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Active at night.