Plague skink / rainbow skink
Length: SVL up to 55mm, with the tail being much longer than the body length
Weight: up to 1.9 grams
Rainbow skink (also referred to as ‘plague skink’) are an Australian native which established in New Zealand in the 1960’s. It is thought that they were accidentally introduced through cargo shipments. Rainbow skink may pose a threat to native wildlife through competition for habitat and food, and are being actively managed by some local councils. At present rainbow skink are found only in the North Island, but have the potential to spread further south. If you suspect that you have found rainbow skink in the South Island call the MPI Biosecurity on 0800 80 99 66.
For more information check out the DOC website http://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/pests-and-threats/animal-pests/.
A small skink which reach SVL (snout-vent-lengths) of 40-55mm. Dorsal (upper) surfaces are grey brown to dark brown, uniform in colour or with faint dark speckling. Some individuals have a dark thin stripe down the centre of the back. The ventral (lower) surface of the throat is pale grey/white often with light grey longitudinal streaks, while the belly is a uniform white to creamy yellow. The flanks have a broad dark brown stripe with thin pale stripes at the lower border (and sometimes above).
Rainbow skink are often mistaken for the native copper skink (Oligosoma aeneum). Rainbow skink have a more slender body, longer tail and are often observed foraging and sunbasking in urban gardens, often in large numers. Native copper skink are rarely observed moving about and are generally solitary. A feature which distinguishes rainbow skink from native skink is the presence of a single frontoparietal scale across the top of the head (vs two frontoparietal scales in NZ skink species).
Rainbow skink are a common species in eastern Australia and Tasmania, and have also been introduced to the Hawaiian and Lord Howe Islands.
In New Zealand the rainbow skink has spread rapidly throughout the North Island. They have also established on Great Barrier Island, and at Havelock and Blenheim in the Marlborough region of the South Island.
Ecology and habitat
Rainbow skink occur across a wide range of habitats, including: gardens, industrial sites, road and railway clearings, rough pasture, open coastal habitats, clearings around forests and shrublands. They are typically found in low dense vegetation and leaf litter. Rainbow skink are diurnal and are often seen sun basking.
Rainbow skink lay eggs communally on an annual basis, with young hatching in February/March. Females lay between two and five eggs which are white and leathery, measuring approximately 8-10mm.
DOC. (2015). Plague skink (aka Rainbow skinks): a threat to our native fauna. Wellington: DOC.
Gill, B.J., & Whitaker, A.H. (2007). New Zealand frogs and reptiles. Auckland: David Bateman Limited.
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.
Jewell, T. (2011). A photographic guide to reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand. Auckland: New Holland Publishing.
van Winkel, D., Baling, M. & Hitchmough, R. (2018). Reptiles and Amphibians of New Zealand: A field guide. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 376 pp.