Herpetofaunal category
Gray, 1845
Common names
Grand skink
Oligosoma grande
Image attribution
Joel Knight


The name of this species reflects the large size of the grand skink, which weigh up to 29g. There are two forms: the smaller western and larger eastern. Grand skink have very long toes and tails.

  Eastern Western
Dorsal (upper) surface Black with paler flecks converging into short longitudinal series of 2-4. Pale dorso lateral stripe more frequently fragmented or indistinct. Black with pale flecks converging to form thin longitudinal stripes.
Flanks Broad black upper band, often bordered below with a notched white stripe which gives way to ventral colouration. Black colouration restricted to an upper band.
Tail Markings continue almost to tip. Almost uniformly grey.
SVL (snout-vent-length) 95-115mm. 90-105mm
Ears Opening as large as eye. Slightly smaller than size of eye.
Ventral (lower) surface E & W: grey or cream/yellow, sometimes very finely flecked with black.

Life expectancy

40+ years.


The eastern form are restricted to inland parts of eastern Otago, while the western form are restricted to the Lakes District.

Ecology and habitat

A very agile and active species which inhabit outcrops of schist rock, tors, creviced bluffs in shrub and tussockland. Grand skink are diurnal avid sun baskers, retreating into crack and crevices if threatened. The species actively forage in the open across rocks and vegetation. Typically seen with the head held high in an alert stance.

Social structure

Grand skink are social lizards and are known to interact with one another and other lizard species such as Mccann’s skink. They have an extensive repertoire of displays used to communicate with each other. Males and females have similar home range size, averaging 91 m², which often overlaps significantly with other individuals. They typically have a favourite crevice that they regularly retreat to.

Females may be dominant over males, and males have been recorded avoiding females by altering their routes in an apparent attempt to avoid them. Adult grand skinks are not often seen together in close quarters although younger skinks are often observed sharing crevices as well as maintaining physical contact with adults.

Breeding biology

Grand skink are ovoviviparous, giving birth to two or three young; young are born from mid to late February through to late March, though this can vary depending on weather (D. Keall, personal communication, October 6, 2016).    


Insects and fruit.


Largely unknown.

Conservation strategy

Grand skink are classified by DOC as ‘nationally endangered’. DOC have a recovery plan in place for the species and dedicated conservation efforts involving intensive predator control, predator-proof fences and captive breeding programmes.


  • Gill, B.J., & Whitaker, A.H. (2007). New Zealand frogs and reptiles. Auckland: David Bateman Limited.
  • 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.
  • Jewell, T. (2011). A photographic guide to reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand. Auckland: New Holland Publishers Ltd.
  • Whitaker, A.H., & Loh, G. (1995). Otago skink and grand skink recovery plan (Leiolopisma otagense and L. grande). Wellington: Threatened Species Unit, DOC.