The Bougainville's skink (Lerista bougainvillii) is rarely seen as it spends most of its life under the cover of leaf-litter, loose sand or thin slabs of stone. The limbs of this species are relatively small and this small skink moves in a sinuous, snake-like manner.
This distinctive species is well adapted to a life spent under the surface, with a long, slender body, a narrow, flattened head and short legs. Bougainville's skinks are pale silvery grey to brown above, with a reddish tail and a sharp edged black stripe along body sides. There is never any trace of a vertebral stripe. The lower lips are barred with black and the frontoparietal shields are paired in this species. The head and body length is up to 70 mm. The Bougainville's skink is so distinctive in body shape that it is unlikely to be confused with any other species of Tasmanian skink.
Bougainville's skinks forage beneath leaf litter on sandy soil for small invertebrates, swimming through the broken-down leaf litter and sand through sinuous undulations of their elongated bodies. In such an environment, legs tend to get in the way, and the limbs of Bougainville's skinks are very much reduced. These small skinks do not bask on the surface like most Tasmanian reptiles, raising their body temperature instead by moving into leaf litter or sand that has been warmed by the sun. Consequently they live in areas where the canopy is open and the ground is warmed enough for them to become active. This species is unlikely to be encountered, but may be found while raking leaf litter or digging in loose soil.
This unusual species shows geographic variation in reproduction, being egg laying on the Australian mainland. In Tasmanian specimens the 2 or 3 young are deposited in only partially calcified eggs which hatch within a few days.
Although fairly widespread in southeastern mainland Australia, this species is known from few locations in Tasmania, having been found only at Cape Portland and Waterhouse Point on the Tasmanian mainland. Bougainville's skinks have also been recorded from the following Tasmanian Islands: Babel Is., Big Green Is., Curtis Is., Deal Is., East Hogan Is., East Moncouer Is., Hogan Is., Little Anderson Is., Mount Chappell Is., North East Is., South West Is., Swan Is., Vansittart Is. and Waterhouse Is.. The species was originally described from Kangaroo Island, S.A.
This species is not listed as rare or threatened on the Schedules of the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995.
Changes in fire ecology may alter the ground cover and thus temperature gradients available to this species.