Oligosoma suteri

Egg-laying skink

Oligosoma suteri
(Boulenger, 1906)

Egg-laying skink (Hauraki Gulf). © Nick Harker
Image attribution
Egg-laying skink (Hauraki Gulf). © Nick Harker.
Herpetofaunal category
NZ Skinks
Species complex
Conservation Status
At Risk - Relict
Previous scientific names
Leiolopisma suteri,
Lygosoma suteri,
Robbisaurus suteri.
Common names
Egg-laying skink,
Diving skink,
Suter's skink.

Length: SVL up to 126mm, with the tail being equal to or longer than the body length

Weight: up to 26 grams

Description

A medium to large skink with a thickset body reaching SVLs (snout-vent-lengths) of 70-126mm, the largest individuals being found on the Three Kings Islands. Dorsal (upper) surface colour ranges from straw brown to dark brown/black; flank colours range from grey to black. Dorsal surface and flanks often have black mottling or spots. Ventral (lower) surface grey, sometimes with pink or bright orange hues, some individuals have black spots. Occasional individuals are entirely black. The torso is oval in cross-section. Snouts particularly slender and oval in shape, cheeks may appear swollen when viewed from above.

Life expectancy

Largely unknown.

Distribution

East coast of the North Island from Coromandel Peninsula north to the Three Kings Islands. There are currently only a handful of sites where the species are present on the mainland, with most relegated to offshore islands as a result of introduced predators.

Ecology and habitat

Beaches with boulders and shingle, can be found in rocky platforms in the splash zone. A nocturnal species which will sunbask, retreating amongst rocks and seaweed if threatened. Will forage below the high tide mark and under water in rock pools. Egg laying skink are capable of remaining under water for more than 20 minutes.

Social structure

Egg laying skinks live in small groups, females may share nests.

Breeding biology

The only New Zealand lizard which lays eggs, a trait which is unusual given the potential for flooding of nest sties within their habitat. Clutches of 3-6 eggs laid in December/January, hatching in March/April. Eggs are leathery and white, ~15x10mm. Egg laying skink have one of the longest development periods recorded for skink, taking a total of 5 months from ovulation to hatching.

Diet

A carnivorous skink which consumes items such as land snails including amphipods and isopods which are abundant in seaweed which has washed ashore.

Disease

Endoparasites recorded include the nematode Skrjabinodon trimorphi; ectoparasites include mites of the Ophionyssus species.

Conservation strategy

DOC classify egg laying skink as ‘relict’ with a population > 20,000 individual, with the population stable or a increasing at >10%.

DOC have a recovery programme in place for the Oligosoma skink group.

References

Buckley, T. R., & Leschen, R. A. (2013). Comparative phylogenetic analysis reveals long-term isolation of lineages on the Three Kings Islands, New Zealand. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society108(2), 361-377.

Chapple, D. G., Keall, S. N., Daugherty, C. H., & Hare, K. M. (2017). Nest-site selection and the factors influencing hatching success and offspring phenotype in a nocturnal skink. Amphibia-Reptilia38(3), 363-369.

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 evolution52(2), 470-487.

Cree, A. (1994). Low annual reproductive output in female reptiles from New Zealand. New Zealand journal of zoology21(4), 351-372.

de Lange, P. J., Cameron, E. K., & Taylor, G. A. (1995). Flora and fauna of Tatapihi (Groper) Island, Mokohinau Islands. Tane35, 69-94.

Gill, B.J., & Whitaker, A.H. (2007). New Zealand frogs and reptiles. Auckland: David Bateman Ltd.

Hardy, G. S. (1977). The New Zealand Scincidae (Reptilia: Lacertilia); a taxonomic and zoogeographic study. New Zealand journal of zoology4(3), 221-325.

Hare, K. M., Daugherty, C. H., & Chapple, D. G. (2008). Comparative phylogeography of three skink species (Oligosoma moco, O. smithi, O. suteri; Reptilia: Scincidae) in northeastern New Zealand. Molecular phylogenetics and evolution46(1), 303-315.

Hare, K. M., Daugherty, C. H., & Cree, A. (2002). Incubation regime affects juvenile morphology and hatching success, but not sex, of the oviparous lizard Oligosoma suteri (Lacertilia: Scincidae). New Zealand Journal of Zoology29(3), 221-229.

Hare, K. M., Longson, C. G., Pledger, S., & Daugherty, C. H. (2004). Size, growth, and survival are reduced at cool incubation temperatures in the temperate lizard Oligosoma suteri (Lacertilia: Scincidae). Copeia2004(2), 383-390.

Hare, K. M., Pledger, S., & Daugherty, C. H. (2008). Low incubation temperatures negatively influence locomotor performance and behavior of the nocturnal lizard Oligosoma suteri (Lacertidae: Scincidae). Copeia2008(1), 16-22.

Hare, K. M., Schumann, N., Hoskins, A. J., Daugherty, C. H., Towns, D. R., & Chapple, D. G. (2020). Predictors of translocation success of captive‐reared lizards: implications for their captive management. Animal conservation23(3), 320-329.

Hitchmough, R. A. (1977). The lizards of the Moturoa Island Group. Tane23, 37-46.

Hitchmough, R. A. (1979). Lizards observed during a visit to the Cavalli Islands, December 1978 to January 1979. Tane25, 119-124.

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, 2021New Zealand threat classification series 35. Wellington: New Zealand Department of Conversation.

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.

Janssen, J., Towns, D. R., Duxbury, M., & Heitkönig, I. M. (2015). Surviving in a semi-marine habitat: dietary salt exposure and salt secretion of a New Zealand intertidal skink. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology189, 21-29.

Jewell, T. (2011). A photographic guide to reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand. Auckland: New Holland Publishers Ltd.

Longson, C. G., Hare, K. M., & Daugherty, C. H. (2007). Fluctuating asymmetry does not reflect environmental stress during incubation in an oviparous lizard. New Zealand Journal of Zoology34(2), 91-96.

McCallum, J. (1980). Reptiles of the northern Mokohinau Group. Tane26, 53-59.

McCallum, J. (1981). Reptiles of Tawhiti Rahi Island, Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand. Tane, 27, 55-58.

McCallum, J. (1981). Reptiles of the North Cape region, New Zealand. Tane, 27, 152-157.

McCallum, J. (1986). Evidence of predation by kiore upon lizards from the Mokohinau Islands. New Zealand journal of ecology, 83-87.

McCallum, J., & Harker, F. R. (1981). Reptiles of Cuvier Island. Tane27, 17-22.

Melzer, S., Hitchmough, R., van Winkel, D., Wedding, C., Chapman, S., & Rixon, M. (2022). Conservation Status of Reptile Species in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. Auckland Council technical report TR2022/3.

Middleton, D. M., Minot, E. O., & Gartrell, B. D. (2010). Salmonella enterica serovars in lizards of New Zealand's offshore islands. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 247-252.

Miller, K. A., Hare, K. M., & Nelson, N. J. (2010). Do alternate escape tactics provide a means of compensation for impaired performance ability?. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society99(2), 241-249.

Morris, R., & Ballance, A. (2008). Rare wildlife of New Zealand. New Zealand: Random House New Zealand.

Newman, D. G., & Towns, D. R. (1985). A survey of the herpetofauna of the northern and southern blocks, Great Barrier Island, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand15(3), 279-287.

Parrish, G. R., & Anderson, P. J. (1999). Lizard transfers from Matapia Island to Motuopao Island, Northland and observations on other fauna. Tane37, 1-14.

Parrish, G. R., & Gill, B. J. (2003). Natural history of the lizards of the Three Kings Islands, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology30(3), 205-220.

Parrish, G. R., & Pierce, R. J. (1993). Reptiles of Motuopao Island, Northland, New Zealand. Tane, 34, 53-58.

Patterson, G. B., & Daugherty, C. H. (1995). Reinstatement of the genus Oligosoma (Reptilia: Lacertilia: Scincidae). Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand25(3), 327-331.

Robb, J. (1980). New Zealand reptiles and amphibians in colour. Auckland: Williams Collins Publishers Ltd.

Stenhouse, V., Carter, A. L., Chapple, D. G., Hare, K. M., Hartley, S., & Nelson, N. J. (2018). Modelled incubation conditions indicate wider potential distributions based on thermal requirements for an oviparous lizard. Journal of Biogeography45(8), 1872-1883.

Taylor, G. A., Lovegrove, T. G., Miskelly, C. M., McFadden, I., & Whitaker, A. H. (1990). An ecological survey of small islands in the Mercury Group. Tane32, 151-167.

Towns, D. R. (1972). The reptiles of Red Mercury Island. Tane18, 95-105.

Towns, D. R. (1975). Ecology of the black shore skink, Leiolopisma suteri (Lacertilia: Scincidae), in boulder beach habitats. New Zealand Journal of Zoology2(4), 389-407.

Towns, D.R. (1975). Reproduction and growth of the black shore skink, Leiopisma suteri (Lacertilia: Scinidae) in north-eastern New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology, 2, 4, 409-423.

Towns, D. R. (1991). Response of lizard assemblages in the Mercury Islands, New Zealand, to removal of an introduced rodent: the kiore (Rattus exulans). Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand21(2), 119-136.

Towns, D. R., & Ferreira, S. M. (2001). Conservation of New Zealand lizards (Lacertilia: Scincidae) by translocation of small populations. Biological conservation98(2), 211-222.

Towns, D. R., & Hayward, B. W. (1973). Reptiles of the Aldermen Islands. Tane19, 93-102.

Towns, D. R., Neilson, K. A., & Whitaker, A.H. (2002). North Island Oligosoma spp. skink recovery plan 2002–2012: Threatened species recovery plan 48. Wellington: Department of Conservation.

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

Whitaker, A. H. (1968). The lizards of the Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand. New Zealand journal of science11, 623-651.

Whitaker, A. H. (1973). Lizard populations on islands with and without Polynesian rats, Rattus exulans (Peale). Proceedings (New Zealand Ecological Society)20, 121–130.

Woolley, C. K., Hare, K. M., Stenhouse, V., & Nelson, N. J. (2022). Thermal and physical characteristics of the nesting habitat of New Zealand’s only endemic oviparous lizard. New Zealand Journal of Ecology46(1), 1-9.