T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Skink (Otago) Oligosoma otagense

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Scincidae
Genus: Oligosoma
Species: O. otagense
Scientific name: Oligosoma otagense
Synonyms: Girardiscincus otagense, Leiolopisma grande ssp. otagense
Common name: Otago Skink, mokomoko

Oligosoma otagense is a rare, endangered species of a large skink found in the rocky canyons and grassy patches of Central Otago, New Zealand. They are only found in two very specific locations, most are in Eastern Otago, between Macreas Flat and Sutton and a smaller population in western Otago between Lake Hāwea and Lindis Pass. They are usually found between 200 and 1,000 meters in elevation. They live in family groups of two adults and up to three generations of young.

Oligosoma otagense is one of New Zealand’s rarest lizards, and also amongst the largest growing up to 130mm SVL (snout to vent) in length. It is a long, scaly lizard with a fairly sharp snout. Its forelimbs are somewhat shorter than the hind limbs. Its upper surface and its flanks have a distinctive set of black, cream, pale yellow, or pale green blotches.
The body’s underside is yellowish or a pale grey and it is mottled all over with darker patches. This colour pattern provides excellent camouflage in their rocky habitat of lichen-covered rocks and schist outcrops. They can often be seen sunning themselves on rocks to regulate body temperature and they seek refuge in the deep crevices when alarmed, at night and on cold days. 
Oligosoma otagense are omnivores like most skinks feeding on a wide variety of insects, fleshy fruits, flower petals, or even other small reptiles. They are long-lived, reaching around 16 years in the wild and up to 40 years in captivity, and are slow to mature, reaching sexual maturity at 3–4 years. 
Unlike many reptiles, this species is ovoviviparous, with eggs hatching in the mother's body, who then gives birth to fully formed live young. Three to four young are born between January to March.

The Otago skink has been assessed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species based on its very limited range and low total population. It is estimated that the main decrease in their numbers is from attacks from stoats, feral cats, ferrets weasels and the increasing lack of sheltering habitats presumably driven by land use changes, particularly the intensification of farming. 
In 2012 the Department of Conservation (DOC) classified the Otago Skink as Nationally Critical under the New Zealand Threat Classification System and as a result of this classification, they have a specific management plan for the Otago skink with the recovery team focussing conservation efforts on intensive pest management, predator-proof fences and captive breeding programmes. 

A family lounge (group) of Otago skinks. The juveniles colour is more intense.
 



A video on the Otago skinks.


Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/