Topic: Shore Skink

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We are very lucky to have Shore Skink remaining at Te Arai. The Shore Skink is also known as Tatahi, and its mainland populations are in decline. They rest in Te Arai's dunes and travel to the intertidal zone to feed.

shore skink

Photo by Gregory Sherley

Shore Skink (Oligosoma smithi)

A medium sized, elongate skink.  Colour and marking patterns show considerable variation in this species, even within populations. It ranges from black through to grey, brown or greenish and heavily speckled. Striping, if present is usually weak, and may consist of a dark mid-dorsal stripe. Some specimens are entirely black. Tail relatively short, tapering moderately. Throat grey or cream, often flecked with black. Snout pointed. The combination of size, colour pattern, pointed snout and coastal habitat is unique to this species.

New Zealand lizards are unusual in that only one, the egg-laying skink (Oligosoma suteri), lays eggs. The others are viviparous –that is they give birth to live young. The eggs hatch in the female’s oviduct before the young are born. The young are born in the height of summer. The very time they need undisturbed feeding time is also the time people like to head to the beach. This human pressure on the coastal environments means that the skink has disappeared from most Auckland's beaches. 

Range and Habitat

Current distribution- North Island only; west coast north of Muriwai Beach near Auckland, east coast north of Gisborne and widespread on northern off-shore islands including six islands and inslets in the Three Kings group (Great Island; North East Island; Hinemoa Rock; Tutanekai Rock; Arbutus Rock; and South West Island) (Parrish & Gill 2003).Skinks have been observed to eat invertebrates from intertidal zones (Gill & Whitaker 2001), in rock pools (Hudson 1994) as well as jumping from Muehlenbackia vines to catch bees and flies (Wedding 2007)


Between 2-6 offspring are born between January-March.


Habitat loss, predation, human disturbance. Shore skinks remain at Te Arai due to relatively low levels of disturbance.  The skinks have to travel the over the dunes where they rest, across the width of the beach and into the tidal zone to feed.  They take their young  and must feel safe before they embark on this journey.  Therefore beaches with high levels of foot traffic are less likely to accomodate for the shore skink.


You can read more in the accompaning Department of Conservation document

North Island Oligosoma spp. Skink Recovery Plan 2002–2012

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