Herpetofaunal category
McCann, 1955
Previous scientific names
Cyclodina pachysomaticum
Common names
Marbled skink
Oliver's skink
Oligosoma oliveri
Image attribution


Dorsal surface light to dark olive brown, often speckled, with no prominent stripe along the mid-line. Some individuals have copper coloured edges along the back in for forehalf of body. Flanks above forelimbs either very dark, or dark grey with heavy black and white speckling. Belly pale yellow or with a faint red tinge, usually speckled; white throat with heavy speckling or streaks. The head sports a ‘tear-drop’ marking under each eye (white with black edging); tear-drop sometimes joins a set of denticular markings along the lips. Tail is short and thick, tapering abruptly.

The two populations of marbled skink (Poor Knights and Southern) differ in size, with individuals from the Poor Knights being larger and bulkier reaching SVL (snout-vent-lengths) of up to 105mm, southern individuals are smaller reaching SVL lengths of up to 85mm.

Marbled skink may be confused with Whitaker’s skink: the belly of marbled skink are usually heavily flecked whereas Whitaker’s skink usually have unmarked or lightly flecked bellies; Whitaker’s skink usually have a distinctly yellowish or orange hue to the belly.

Marbled skink are difficult to distinguish from ornate skink; the black markings on the sides of the neck are usually less extensive in ornate skink.

Life expectancy

Largely unknown.


Marbled skink are restricted to offshore islands on the north-eastern side of the North Island.

Ecology and habitat

Marbled skink are nocturnal, foraging occasionally in daylight hours and rarely sun-basking. The species inhabit leaf litter in coastal and forest scrub.

Social structure

Largely unknown.

Breeding biology

Marbled skink are ovoviviparous giving birth to litters of 2-4 young in March/April.


Invertebrates and fruit including berries of Coprosma, Macropiper excelsum (kawakawa), and Solanum nodiflorum (small flowered knightshade).


Ophionyssus mites have been recorded as ectoparasites of marbled skink.

Conservation strategy

DOC classify marbled skink as ‘relict’ with a population of >20,000 mature individuals and a population that is stable or increasing at a rate >10%.

Interesting notes

Named after the former Director of the Dominion Museum, Dr W.R.B. Oliver; also known as Oliver’s skink.

The taxonomy of marbled skink has been debated for a number of years with most recent genetic research concluding that populations within the Mercury, Alderman, and Poor Knights Islands all belong within the Oligosoma oliveri species. Genetic data suggest that the Mokohinau, Hen and Chicken, Little and Great Barrier Island populations be designated a new species: Oligosoma townsi. Genetic studies also suggest that Oligosoma whitakeri are part of the Oligosoma oliveri species group.


  • Chapple, D.G., Patterson, G.B., Gleeson, D.G., Daugherty, C.H., & Richie, P.A. (2008). Taxonomic revision of the marbled skink (Cyclodina oliveri, Reptilia: Scincidae) species complex, with a description of a new species. New Zealand Journal of Zoology, 35, 129 – 146.
  • 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.
  • Whitaker, A.H. (1987). The roles of lizards in New Zealand plant reproductive strategies. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 25, 2, 315-328.