Oligosoma aff. infrapunctatum "southern North Island"

Kupe skink

Oligosoma aff. infrapunctatum "southern North Island"

Kupe skinks (Whanganui coast). <a href="https://www.instagram.com/nickharker.nz/">© Nick Harker</a>
Image attribution
Kupe skinks (Whanganui coast). © Nick Harker
Herpetofaunal category
NZ Skinks
Species complex
Conservation Status
Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable
Previous scientific names
Oligosoma infrapunctatum,
Leiolopisma infrapunctatum.
Common names
Kupe skink

Length: SVL up to 80mm, with the tail being longer than the body length

Weight: At least up to 14 grams.

Description

A beautiful and robust, medium-sized skink belonging to the speckled skink complex.  

Kupe skinks are light to mid-brown dorsally with black and cream speckling, they often exhibit a dark dorsal stripe, but this may be absent or broken in some individuals. Dark brown lateral stripes with interior cream flecking are present, these are directly bordered by yellowy-brown or cream-coloured dorsolateral stripes, with the lower stripe breaking up into brown and cream blotching towards the lower surfaces. The lower surfaces are cream to pale yellow with dark brown to black flecking.  

Kupe skinks are distinctively patterned and only likely to be confused with the often much smaller northern grass skink (Oligosoma polychroma) with which it co-occurs. Young animals may be confused, but in general Kupe skinks are much larger / more robust, and exhibit more distinct speckling on the dorsal surfaces.

Life expectancy

Unknown.

Distribution

Occurs in disjunct populations in the lower North Island from southern Taranaki in the west to the Kaimanawa Ranges in the east, continuing south into the Wairarapa region.

Ecology and habitat

Kupe skinks are diurnal and strongly heliothermic. They will sunbask, but often cryptically near cover. 

They occur in a range of habitats including dune systems, shrubland, scrub, grassland, open forest, and boulderfields. When not active, foraging or basking, Kupe skinks take refuge on the ground under rocks, logs, driftwood, or in dense vegetation. 

Social structure

Little is known about the social structure of Kupe skinks, though they are considered to be solitary.

Breeding biology

Largely unknown, but they may be similar to other members of the speckled skink complex e.g. gravid during spring-summer, and give birth from December to March. Populations at higher elevations may breed biennially.

Diet

The diet of Kupe skinks includes a wide range of invertebrates, and the berries / fruit of native species.

Disease

Unknown

Conservation strategy

Kupe skinks are regarded as Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable. Although geographically widespread many populations are at fairly low densities due to the impacts of habitat modification, and predation from mammalian pest species. The Wairarapa populations may be locally extinct as they have not been recorded there since the 1970's. 

Interesting notes

Kupe skinks are members of the speckled skink cryptic species complex - a group of related taxa with similar morphology that were previously regarded as one highly variable species (Oligosoma infrapunctatum).

References

Hitchmough, R.A., Barr, B., Lettink, M., Monks, J., Reardon, J., Tocher, M., van Winkel, D., Rolfe, J. (2016). Conservation status of New Zealand reptiles, 2015; New Zealand threat classification series 17. Wellington: New Zealand Department of Conservation.

Melzer, S., Hitchmough, R. H., Bell, T., Chapple, D. G., Patterson, G. B. (2019). Lost and Found: Taxonomic revision of the speckled skink (Oligosoma infrapunctatum; Reptilia; Scincidae) species complex from New Zealand reveals a potential cryptic extinction, resurrection of two species, and description of three new species. Zootaxa, 4623 (3), 441–484. doi:https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4623.3.2

van Winkel, D., Baling, M. & Hitchmough, R. (2018). Reptiles and Amphibians of New Zealand: A Field Guide. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 376 pp.