Prehensiletailed skink

Corucia zebrata

SUBFAMILY

Lygosominae

TAXONOMY

Corucia zebrata Gray, 1855, Makira Island (San Cristobal), Solomon Islands.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This big skink has a large head, well-developed and strongly clawed limbs, a robust body, and a prehensile tail. The lower eyelid is scaly. It has no supranasals; the prefrontals are narrowly separated or in contact, and the parietals are widely separated. The dorsal ground color varies, ranging from khaki to

H Mabuya striata H Scincus scincus H Typhlosaurus lineatus

I Corucia zebrata I Tiliqua rugosa

I Ctenotus quattuordecimlineatus gray-green to pale olive green, with lighter and darker flecks dorsally. Rostral and nasal scales, often the frontonasal scales, are cream or light yellow. The tail is olive green or brown, without markings. The ventral color is yellow-green to light gray-green. The iris is golden yellow to lime green.

DISTRIBUTION

The species is endemic to the Solomon Islands: Bougainville, Shortland Islands, Choiseul, Vella Lavella, New Georgia, Isabel, Guadalcanal, Ngela, Malaita, Makira, Ugi, and Santa Ana.

HABITAT

This large skink is fairly common, but because it is nocturnal, sheltering during the day in hollows or among dense foliage in the larger forest trees, it is seldom seen. Its preferred habitat is the strangler fig tree (Ficus sp.). These lizards are almost completely arboreal, though they occasionally are encountered on the ground, moving between trees at night.

BEHAVIOR

These skinks are nocturnal. They possess strongly prehensile tails and are excellent climbers. They move slowly and usually are docile, though when provoked, they will rise up and exhale with a sharp, loud hiss through the open mouth. If tormented, they bite savagely, given the opportunity. After rains that follow a prolonged drought, these skinks emerge at dusk from fig tree hollows to lick up raindrops collected on leaves of their host tree.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This skink is completely herbivorous and consumes a variety of plants, but the bulk of its diet is made up of leaves and flowers of the aroid Epipremnum pinnatum.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Live bearers, these skinks give birth to single, large young about one-third the size of adults. Twins are rare. Newborns eat the fecal pellets of adults to establish the gut flora necessary for digestion of plant material.

CONSERVATION STATUS

The species has been overcollected in the Solomons by animal dealers, to supply the foreign pet trade. It is listed on Appendix II of CITES. Thousands are exported from the Solomons each year, seriously threatening the long-term survival of wild populations of this spectacular skink. It is not listed by the IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Rural Solomon Islanders prize this lizard as food. Many are kept in captivity by herpetoculturists around the world. ♦

DISTRIBUTION

The species occurs in central Australia.

HABITAT

These skinks inhabit red, sandy deserts with spinifex grasses.

BEHAVIOR

These alert, wary, active, diurnal skinks are constantly on the move between grass tussocks.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This skink forages widely, constantly moving from tussock to tussock and searching for insect prey, particularly termites.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Females lay two to four eggs. The average clutch size is three eggs.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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