Length: SVL up to 51mm, with the tail being shorter than the body length
This iconic little species is New Zealand’s smallest skink. It bears a striking resemblance to the closely related copper skink (Oligosoma aeneum), but is significantly smaller, and restricted to the northern regions of the Aupouri Peninsula. As with the copper skink, this species is brown with occasional white flecking, it has a copper dorsolateral stripe bordered by black on the lower edge running from the neck to the base of the tail, as well as the black and white denticulate patterns on the upper and lower jaw. Lower surfaces range from white through to yellow, with orange patches towards the vent and tail, there can be black flecking on the throat.
In general, the slight skink is considered to be geographically isolated from the copper skink (Oligosoma aeneum), however, in regions where it may overlap (e.g. the southern Aupouri peninsula) it can be distinguished by its slighter build, smaller size, and lower mid-body scale counts. It co-occurs with the ornate skink but is unlikely to be confused with it due to its much smaller size and lack of the distinctive teardrop marking on the lower jaw.
Confined to the northern Aupouri Peninsula and some of its offshore islands (e.g. Motuopao).
As with other native skinks this species is likely to be omnivorous feeding on small invertebrates found in leaf litter, as well as small fruits.
Ecology and Habitat
A highly cryptic diurnal species, with fossorial (burrowing) habits. On the mainland it tends to occur in association with kauri forests, and other suitably damp habitats, whereas on islands it tends to be associated with dense flaxlands.
Likely to be ovoviviparous. It is assumed that it has a similar reproductive output to the closely related copper skink (Oligosoma aeneum) e.g. Up to 4 live young born January-March.
Disease and threats
The major threats for this species come in the form of predation by mammalian pests (rats, mice, hedgehogs, possums, and feral cats), as well as habitat degradation, and clearance.
Chapple, D. G., Daugherty, C. H., & Ritchie, P. A. (2008). Comparative phylogeography reveals pre-decline population structure of New Zealand Cyclodina (Reptilia: Scincidae) species. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 95(2), 388-408.
Chapple, D. G., Patterson, G. B., Bell, T., & Daugherty, C. H. (2008). Taxonomic revision of the New Zealand copper skink (Cyclodina aenea: Squamata: Scincidae) species complex, with descriptions of two new species. Journal of Herpetology, 42(3), 437-452.
Chapple, D. G., Ritchie, P. A., & Daugherty, C. H. (2009). Origin, diversification, and systematics of the New Zealand skink fauna (Reptilia: Scincidae). Molecular phylogenetics and evolution, 52(2), 470-487.
Hitchmough, R., 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. Wellington: New Zealand Department of Conversation.
van Winkel, D., Baling, M., & Hitchmough, R. (2018). Reptiles and Amphibians of New Zealand: A Field Guide. Auckland University Press, pp 376.