Herpetofaunal category
McCann, 1955
Common names
Otago skink
Oligosoma otagense on rocks
Image attribution
By Pseudopanax at en.wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Otago skink are the largest of the South Island skinks reaching lengths of up to 130mm SVL (snout to vent). The distinctive markings of the species gave rise to the Maori name for the species of ‘mokomoko’. Dorsal (upper) surface and flanks have a distinctive set of black, cream, pale yellow, or pale green blotches. Ventral (lower) surfaces are light grey or yellowish, also with distinctive black mottling. Individuals from eastern populations are commonly born with a black background colour which becomes increasingly flecked as the animal matures, whereas animals from western populations usually retain the black background colour. Soles of feet are dark brown; toes and tails very long.

Life expectancy

Up to 40 years.


Central Otago. Once widespread throughout Otago, now restricted to 8% of their former range, with the population trend still in serious decline, given localised extinction in the last 30-35 years.

Ecology and habitat

Rocky schist outcrops, bluffs, and tors in shrubland and tussock grassland (particularly in deep rocky gorges). A diurnal species which are avid sunbathers.

Social structure

Otago skink live in family groups of two adults and up to three generations of young. There is considerable overlap of home ranges, with males having the largest home ranges, followed by non gravid females, then gravid females. Groups share retreats and will bask communally, though they tend to disperse once warmed.

Breeding biology

Otago skink are ovoviviparous, typically giving birth to three of four young each year in January/February/March. In captivity litters of up to six have been recorded (D. Keall, personal communication, October 6, 2016).


Invertebrates and berries.


Largely unknown.

Conservation strategy

DOC classify Otago skink as ‘nationally endangered’. DOC have a specific management plan for the Otago and grand skinks, with the Otago and grand skink recovery team focussing conservation efforts on intensive pest management, predator-proof fences and captive breeding programmes.


  • Germano, J.M. (2007). Movements, home ranges, and capture effects of the endangered Otago skink (Oligosoma otangense). Journal of Herpetology, 41, 2, 179-186.
  • 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 Publishing.
  • Towns, D.R. (1999) Cyclodina Spp. Skink Recovery Plan 1999-2004. Threatened Species Recovery Plan 27. Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.