Biologists Discover New Species of Skink

An international team of biologists has discovered a new species of skink in the northwest region of New Caledonia.

Adult male Caledoniscincus constellatus (Ross Sadlier et al)

A study, published in the journal Zootaxa, describes a new species of scincid lizard, called Caledoniscincus constellatus.

C. constellatus is known from two locations on the island of New Caledonia – one on the coast at Pointe de Vavouto north of Koné, the other on the slopes of the Massif d’Ouazangou.

“The site at Vavouto is mostly covered by disturbed vegetation but there is a mixture of dense to open maquis and Acacia shrubland on the coastal hills and remnant sclerophyll forest in the gully,” the team wrote in the paper. “This site is unique for the occurrence of sclerophyll forest on serpentine. The new species was found in both habitats, and was syntopic with C. haplorhinus which was more abundant. The single juvenile from Massif d’Ouazangou was collected in an insect pitfall trap set in Acacia shrubland in a west-facing gully around 400 m elevation.”

Adult males of C. constellatus measure about 46 to 52 mm in body length, while females measure up to 57 mm.

Adults of both sexes have bold yellow ventral surfaces, which distinguish them from most other species of Caledoniscincus.

“Dorsal surface of males predominately light brown to gray-brown with a reticulate pattern of narrow, bicolored transverse bars, the individual scales of which are black with one to several small white spots medially within the scale and/or along its anterior edge, and the scales making up the of lighter interspaces between the dark transverse bars are densely peppered with minute black spots,” the biologists wrote.

“Adult female with the dorsal surface gray-brown above with a series of small, widely separated dark blotches along the vertebral line of the neck, body and base of tail, continuing as a narrow dark vertebral streak along the remainder of the tail. Lateral surface as for males but with the pale dorsolateral markings usually white, near continuous and narrow.”

The species name refers to the pattern of white specks on the dorsal surface of males.

“The species is of high conservation concern given its restricted distribution in a region that has been, and will continue to be, heavily impacted by human occupation, and would be ranked as Critically Endangered under IUCN criteria,” the team concluded.