NEW ZEALAND LIZARDS.
Currently there is in excess of seventy species of lizards recognised
in New Zealand, all belonging to one of two families either geckos or skinks.
Worldwide there are about twenty six families such as monitors, dragons
Some of the differences in the two families are as follows:
As their scales overlap skinks tend to have a smooth
glossy appearance while in geckos the scales do not, giving them a
more velvety or matt finish.
Geckos have a broader almost
froglike head than skinks
and tend to be stouter generally.
Skinks can close their eyes with a
moveable lower eyelid whereas New Zealand geckos eyes are covered with
a clear disc and are in effect open
all the time.
Geckos have adhesive
pads under their feet which aids them
in climbing, skinks do not have these.
All New Zealand lizards, also the tuatara, are protected by law.
They must not be kept or captured without a permit issued by the Department
With the exception of one species, the egglaying skink, all New
Zealand lizards are live bearers. The females still produce eggs to nourish
the developing babies, as opposed to mammals where babies are directly
connected to the mother for nourishment. By retaining the eggs within the
female lizard can control to some extent the hatching temperature rather
than relying on the conditions to remain stable as needed for eggs deposited.
New Zealand's temperate and changeable climate makes the egg retention
a better option. Geckos normally produce two babies while skinks
can have clutches of up to eight for some of the larger species. There
is no parental care and the young are self reliant from the start.
Insects of a suitable size are the main part of the diet, supplemented
with berries and in some instances nectar from flowers.
New Zealand Skinks - Scincidae
or Three Kings Islands Skink Oligosoma fallai
Found only on the Three Kings Islands inhabiting areas with rocks and low
bushes. Diurnal, it is one of the larger New Zealand skinks and feeds on
insects, berries from low growing bushes and sometimes fish regurgitated
from seabirds. It is not usual for the ones at the Reptile Park to spend
basking in the shrubs in their enclosure, especially juveniles possibly
seeking a safe haven away from the adults. There does seem to recognition
amongst the group as there is some tolerance to young born within it but
none to those introduced from outside. The young are produced usually in
January or February and there can be as many as eight to a litter.
Brown Skink Oligosoma moco Becoming
scarce on the Northeastern portion of the North Island where it once was
widespread and may soon be restricted to the offshore islands of
that area. Lives in open country near the coast, diurnal.
Skink Oligosoma smithii From the
Northern half of the North Island where it lives very close to the shoreline,
Skink Oligosoma striatum Only
from the North Island this skink is considered endangered. It is found
in epiphytes in standing trees as well as rotting ones on the ground, diurnal.
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Skink Oligosoma suteri Found on
islands off the Northeastern side of the North Island where it lives on
shingle or rocky beaches with a sandy soil strip behind. It does not occur
away from the shoreline, foraging in the inter-tidal zone and even underwater
in rock pools. Sealice and sand hoppers found under seaweed on the inter-tidal
zone and insects such as flies, earwigs etc above the high tide mark make
up their diet.This is the only endemic New Zealand lizard that lays eggs,
there is however a small Australian skink, the Rainbow Skink, which was
accidentally introduced into the Auckland region which also lays eggs.
Oligosoma otagense Probably the largest
to live on either of the two main islands this skink was once widespread
throughout the Otago region of the South Island but is now restricted
to two separate areas. Diurnal it inhabits rocky outcrops in grassland
areas where it enjoys sunbasking. Its food consists of available insects,
spiders etc plus fair proportion of berries from low bushes. The young
usually two or three are produced in Summer [late January or February]
and are relatively large in comparison to other skinks.
Currently there is a recovery programme in place to try to stem
the alarming reduction in numbers of this beautiful skink.
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Skink Cyclodina alani Occurs
only on a few offshore islands North East of the North Island. Possibly
the largest New Zealand skink it is forest dwelling, nocturnal but will
on occasions bask in the sun, usually in the morning. It feeds on all manner
of ground insects as well as any flying ones that circumstances allow.
At the Reptile Park they are fed crickets, locusts, mealworms, moths
[we have found even large moths such as puriri moths can be consumed] and
other insects as available. They also fed comercial pet jellimeat and pureed
pears, the latter suggesting that they eat berries in the wild but as they
are poor climbers probably rely on fallen ones rather those still on the
bushes. A single litter, normally on alternate years, of up to eight young
is produced in March or April.
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New Zealand Geckos - geckonidae
Green Gecko Naultinus greyii From
Northland, diurnal, inhabits manuka or similar bushes where it feeds on
insects and berries. Some are plain green others are patterned with grey
or yellow blotches or stripes which are unique to each lizard, a female
can produce one patterned and one plain green youngster in the same litter.
They are unable to change their colour or even adjust the tone of it. The
inside of the mouth is blue and the tongue red. A litter of twins are produced
in March or April.
Naultinus elegans elegans
From upper half of the North Island excluding Northland, habits similar
to Northland Green. It is smaller in size than the Northland species and
the inside of its mouth and tongue a much deeper shade of mauve. Occasionally
green is replaced by a sulphur-yellow colour but the lizard may still be
mottled with a lighter colour. This colour varient does appear in some
of the other species of green geckos. Normally the young are produced in
August but at the Reptile Park they sometimes appear in the Autumn which
is not unusual for others in captivity.
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Gecko Hoplodactylus granulatus
Occurs throughout New Zealand in bush and scrub, mainly nocturnal although
it will bask on sunny days. As with the green coloured tree geckos, especially
those with some patterning, that blend beautifully amongst the leaves the
forest gecko's pattern resembles tree bark so well that the lizard
can be almost invisible on the branches and trunk and bask there in relative
saftey during the day venturing out into the foliage at night to forage.
Although nocturnal the ones at the Reptile Park are quite active during
the day feed on flies moths etc plus fruit and honey in place of the berries
e.g. coprosma they eat naturally.
Green Gecko Heteropholis stellatus Also
known as the star gecko this gecko is restricted to the
Nelson province but can show different patterning
depending on the area they are from. The one on the left is from the Nelson
Lakes district and the one on the right from The Maitai Valley.
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Gecko Hoplodactylus chrysosireticus
From coastal Taranaki living under rocks or logs or the base of flax
type bushes, seeming to prefer long leaved varieties rather than
those with conventional leaves. It is mainly nocturnal though it will bask
amongst the leaves of low bushes. Its food consists or insects such as
flies, moths, earwigs etc that it would encounter in its habitat. It is
unusual in that unlike most of our other natives will frequent gardens
and farms utilising old timber and other building materials for shelter.
The young are produced usually February or March.
Gecko Hoplodactylus duvauceli The largest
New Zealand gecko, no longer occurs on the mainland but found on offshore
islands from Cook Strait northwards where it lives in rocky or forested
areas, active at night but will bask in the sun. Feeds on all
manner of nocturnal insects that it would encounter naturally and at the
Reptile Park any of the insects that we breed for food are readily accepted
as are offerings of honey, pears or banana. In the wild they have recorded
taking berries and nectar from flax and other similar flowers even climbing
to the top of pohutukawa trees when in flower. Rather large babies normally
twins are produced in the Autumn.
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