BioGecko Issue 4 (2017)

Welcome to our fourth issue of BioGecko (2017).


BELL, TRENT. Editorial.



Oligosoma awakopaka n. sp. (Reptilia: Scincidae) from Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Abstract: A distinctive specimen of skink from Fiordland National Park, New Zealand, is described and is given the taxonomic identity of Oligosoma awakopaka n. sp. It is characterised by brown colouration with a lateral pattern of cream and black spots. The new species is most closely related to two other Fiordland species, O. judgei and O. pikitanga, but represents an earlier phylogenetic split and differs substantially in morphology. The holotype was collected from a rocky alpine herbfield 1,200 m above sea level, in the Homer cirque of the Darran Mountains. Despite repeated searches no further individuals have been detected and it is suggested that O. awakopaka may be an endangered species..



Predation on a free-ranging Raukawa gecko (Woodworthia maculata) by a purple rock crab (Leptograpsus variegatus)

Abstract: An observation was made of a purple rock crab (Leptograpsus variegatus) preying on a Raukawa gecko (Woodworthia maculata) on Mana Island, New Zealand. This account is described here, with a discussion on the paucity of similar records in the New Zealand literature; a review of the international literature on crab-lizard interactions is also presented. Projects involving pitfall trapping or translocating lizards in coastal environments in New Zealand and elsewhere should consider risk of predation by crabs.



A survey of Puangiangi with recommendations for restoration of the island’s lizard fauna.

Abstract: A lizard survey was undertaken on Puangiangi island during March 2015. This survey was to assist the development of management recommendations for the restoration of the island’s lizard fauna. Prior to this survey, four lizard species were known to be present on the island. This survey led to the discovery of an additional species, the spotted skink (Oligosoma lineoocellatum). Further surveys are recommended to search for any remaining species, before translocations of striped gecko (Tukutuku stephensi), speckled skink (O. infrapunctatum), forest gecko (Mokopirirakau granulatus) and Marlborough green gecko (Naultinus manukanus) are proposed. Repeat surveys over longer time periods and using a range of techniques are likely necessary for the detection of species which may persist at undetectable densities. It is recommended that in ecological or island restoration projects, intensive lizard surveys are undertaken over a long period, at five to ten year intervals, by experts prior to considering translocations. This sort of well-planned approach is likely to lead to better conservation outcomes for lizards and secure support from authorities, than ad hoc planning of lizard translocations.



Salvage of southern grass skinks (Oligosoma aff. polychroma Clade 5) in an old riverbed of the Rangitata South Branch, Canterbury, New Zealand.

In 2014, earthworks were begun to convert the largest undeveloped section of the old riverbed of the Rangitata South Branch, South Canterbury, into dairy pasture. This dry riverbed with largely exotic vegetation was mostly in public ownership. After southern grass skinks (Oligosoma aff. polychroma Clade 5; NZTC: ‘At Risk – Declining’) were discovered on site during an ecological survey, a mitigation programme was activated retrospectively for lizards impacted by the project and included salvage of lizards from the affected areas, along with the establishment of a rehabilitation site. During 32 visits to the site, over a four-month period, a total of 193 southern grass skinks were caught, using various methods, and relocated. Southern grass skinks were found distributed across the project area and therefore the entirety of the riverbed, with minor exceptions, may have contained extensive skink populations and habitat originally. During the salvage operation, it became apparent that a different approach would have been more appropriate and a wider area should have been retained, as a permanent habitat, in order to conserve higher biodiversity values.



The ecology and conservation of the cobble skink (Oligosoma aff. infrapunctatum).

Cobble skinks (O. aff. infrapunctatum) are known only from the coastline at the Granity township on the northern West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. They appear to specialize in beach cobble/pohuehue (Muehlenbeckia complexa) habitat, living a saxicolous lifestyle among the deep cobble stones. Sea erosion is occurring along the entire northern West Coast coastline, eliminating the cobble/ pohuehue habitat. Additionally, this cobble-pohuehue habitat is unable to re-establish inland beyond the erosion front due to man-made sea walls and roads, and due to weed infestations. As a result, cobble skinks are at immediate risk of becoming extinct through habitat loss. I conducted a survey for the species in April 2016 and found only three subpopulations of ca. 50 individuals, in an area of ≤80 square metres. I returned to these sites in May 2016 and noted significant erosion and damage to all three subpopulations with one possibly eliminated. During May and June 2016, 25 skinks were collected from the two surviving sub-populations, and these were moved to Auckland Zoo to establish a captive breeding population. An area of stable gorse (Ulex europaeus)-covered cobble habitat near Birchfield has been identified, and it is hoped that this can be rehabilitated so that the cobble skinks and their progeny can eventually be re-established in the wild.



Raking: an effective detection and capture technique for semi-fossorial lizards in New Zealand

Raking, both as a survey and salvage method for lizards, is not currently formally recognised as a technique in New Zealand, despite rakes being commonly utilized internationally. There is an absence of published literature involving case studies involving raking for lizards in New Zealand environments. Hence, little is known about the effectiveness of the method in New Zealand. At two small-scale sites undergoing consented land development for housing purposes, raking was utilized in combination with other common lizard salvage methodologies. The method was found to be the most effective or second-most effective method when compared with day searching, pitfall trapping or funnel trapping; three lizard species were detected and captured using raking techniques: the ornate skink (Oligosoma ornatum), copper skink (O. aeneum) and the plague skink (Lampropholis delicata). Further, during raking, it was discovered that pine (Pinus radiata) leaf litter was a potentially important habitat type for semi-fossorial lizards. Raking should be considered for lizard salvage programmes, and has further potential for utilization in lizard surveys, particularly during assessments of environmental effects for projects prior to resource consenting..



--BARRETT, PAUL. Observations of insect egg predation by the northern grass skink Oligosoma aff. polychroma Clade 1a

--WILES, AYLA. First record of Kupe skink (Oligosoma ‘Southern North Island’) displaying melanistic traits at the Cape Sanctuary, Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand


In Review

Recent scientific papers, technical reports, theses, books, newspapers, videos and blogs published on the New Zealand herpetofauna.


Book Review

--BELL, TRENT.Book Review: New Zealand Lizards, edited by David Chapple.