Southern Snow Skink

Southern snow skink
Copyright:
Alex Dudley
Southern snow skink

The Southern Snow skink (Niveoscincus microlepidotus) is generally a dark lizard with small scales. It forages amongst rocks and low vegetation in Alpine areas of southern and south-western Tasmania.

Description

Similar to both the Mountain skink and the Tasmanian Tree skink, tiny scales and the absence of a black vertebral stripe and a white midlateral stripe on the flanks will normally confirm the specimen as being a Southern Snow skink. These skinks have a head and body length 50-69 mm, with an original tail being 130-147% of the head and body length.


The scales on the back are usually edged and flecked with black in a regular manner which gives these skinks the appearance of being spotted or chequered. Midbody scales are in 32-42 rows. Males tend to have a larger head in relation to body size than females. In the Hartz Range/ Mt.La Perouse/ Precipitous Bluff/ Eastern Arthur Range area this species appears very similar to, and may actually integrate with the Mountain Skink. Genetic work suggests that these isolated populations may be a different species. In these areas all wildlife is fully protected, and the lizards are best identified by their location.

Southern snow skink
Copyright:
Alex Dudley
Southern Snow skink

Ecology

Southern Snow skinks are most commonly found in boulder fields, but will utilise other habitats. In areas where both the Northern and Southern snow skinks occur, such as Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, this species tends to occupy the low alpine heath while the Northern Snow skink remains strictly rock-dwelling.


This species may be found alongside Metallic skinks but reaches a larger size and has longer legs and tail than its ground dwelling relative. Body temperatures during activity have been recorded from 22-31°C. Temperature differences between the bodies of this species and the air have been recorded as high as 18°C. Adult male Southern Snow skinks defend their basking sites against others of their species, although overlap in home range occurs between individuals. Juveniles appear to move freely through the habitat.


Southern snow skink
Copyright:
Alex Dudley
Southern Snow skink

Breeding

Males and females of this species pair up during the mating season and remain together for about a month. Males apparently recognise their partners through the sense of smell. Females mated late in the summer carry sperm in the oviducts until they ovulate in September. Females produce 2-4 live young. Those mated early in the season carry their young through hibernation.

Distribution

An endemic Tasmanian species found at high altitudes throughout south-east Tasmania, as far north as Cradle Mountain. This species was originally described from Mount Wellington, where it may be readily observed on warm, sunny days.

Status

Secure.

Threats

Global warming.

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