Oligosoma aff. inconspicuum "Pallid"

Pallid Skink

Oligosoma aff. inconspicuum "Pallid"

Pallid skink (Mid Dome, Southland). <a href="https://www.instagram.com/samanimalman/">© Samuel Purdie</a>
Image attribution
Pallid skink (Mid Dome, Southland). © Samuel Purdie
Herpetofaunal category
Native
Species complex
Conservation Status
At Risk - Declining
Previous scientific names
Oligosoma inconspicuum
Common names
Pallid skink

Length: SVL up to 70 mm, with the tail being much longer than the body length.

Weight: Unknown

 

Description

A beautiful high-elevation relative of the cryptic skink that has recently been identified as being a distinct taxon. Dorsal surface dull brown or grey-brown, often with dark spots, speckles, and broken stripes. They may also bear a dark mid-dorsal stripe and indistinct pale brown dorsolateral stripes. Lateral surfaces bear a notched, dark brown band, which is often edged with black and bordered by pale brown-cream stripes. The ventral surface is typically bright yellow or cream-grey and blotched/speckled, with a speckled, pale cream-grey throat and chin. This species very closely resembles the cryptic skink (Oligosoma inconspicuum) but is typically duller, less shiny in appearance, found at higher elevations, and often bears more black markings.

Life expectancy

Unknown.

Distribution

Known from Southland and western Otago including Mt Cardrona, Tapuae-o-Uenuku/Hector Mountains, Coronet Peak, Mid Dome, and Mataura Range. It is possible that this species exists elsewhere.

Ecology and habitat

These skinks are diurnal and terrestrial (occasionally semi-arboreal climbing into tall shrubs). While they do sun bask, they typically do so in a cryptic manner, while hiding in dense vegetation or near the entrance to their stone retreats. Consequently, they can sometimes be difficult to observe basking. These skinks have been recorded in a variety of habitats from the lowland right up to at least 1825 m (a.s.l).

Social structure

Unknown.

Breeding biology

Poorly understood. Females produce 1-3 young annually (at least in lowland areas) in summer (January-March).

Diet

Feeds on small invertebrates and on the fruits of native shrubs, and the nectar of flowers.

Disease

Unknown.

Conservation strategy

This species is not being actively and is not formally described. However, it has been recognized as a potentially distinct taxon (Hitchmough et al. 2021). Future work will aim to resolve the taxonomic status of this species and its relationship with other members of the inconspicuum complex. 

Interesting notes

Pallid skinks at very high elevations appear to be somewhat naive to predators and have exhibited limited escape responses to researchers (pers.comm. Dr. Mandy Tocher). 

References

Hitchmough, R.A.; Barr, B.; Knox, C.; Lettink, M.; Monks, J.M.; Patterson, G.B.; Reardon, J.T.; van Winkel, D.; Rolfe, J.; Michel, P. 2021: Conservation status of New Zealand reptiles, 2021. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 35. Department of Conservation, Wellington. 15 p.