The White's skink (Egernia whitii
) is one of the prettiest lizards found in Tasmania. It is a sun-loving species that usually makes its home beneath slabs of rock.
An attractively marked, fairly stocky, medium sized skink. The average adult head and body length is 80-85 mm, the maximum in Tasmania being about 90 mm. Tasmanian specimens usually have two rows of white spots set in dark lines along the back and white spots on the flanks. The upper lip of the White's skink is normally marked with white. Tasmanian specimens do not achieve the size of mainland specimens, the longest Tasmanian specimens recorded with a total length (including the tail) of 220 mm. The "plain backed" type, which is common in populations on the Australian mainland does not occur in Tasmania.
White's skinks live in burrows, usually dug under or between rock slabs or logs but occasionally in sandy areas. They are a sun-loving reptile, usually constructing their burrows on east, north or northwest facing ground. Burrows generally have two entrances, providing both ventilation and a means of escape. Several lizards may share the same burrow and the species appears to live in small colonies. They appear to be able to recognise other individual White's skinks and are quite aggressive toward strangers of their own species. When threatened White's skinks may puff themselves up and open their mouths widely, but they usually run away. This species becomes active when the air temperature is between 24 and 29° Celcius. During very hot days the lizards retreat into their burrows.
They are a slow growing species, even in captivity taking 3 years to reach a head and body length of 50 mm and 4 years to attain a head and body length of 80mm. This species reaches maturity when it has a head and body length of about 78-80 mm. White's skinks are thought to be long-lived with a lifespan estimated to be more than eight and a half years. White's skinks moult almost as soon as they are born and will moult 3-5 times a year, but do not moult during the winter months. If an individual is not able to reach a suitable temperature once moulting has commenced, it will die. White's skinks are unusual amongst Tasmanian skinks in that they regularly defecate at the same place. These lizards feed on a variety of invertebrates including ants, leaf-hoppers, spiders, and millipedes. Occasionally they consume plant material.
One to five young are born in February. At birth the juveniles have a head and body length of 35-39 mm.
Northern and eastern Tasmania up to an altitude of 400 m. Also found on Badger Is., Betsy Is., Black Pyramid, Cat Is., Chalky Is., Curtis Is., Deal Is., East Hogan Is., East Moncouer Is., East Kangaroo Is., East Sister Is., Erith Is., Flinders Is., Hogan Is., Hunter Is., King Is., Long Is., Maria Is., North East Is., North Pasco Is., Passage Is., Preservation Is., Rhodondo Is., Round Islet, Roydon Is., Schouten Is., South Pasco Is., SouthWest Is., Swan Is., Tasman Is., Waterhouse Is. and West Sister Island. White's skinks also occur in NSW, ACT, Victoria and South Australia. The species was originally described from Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
Removal of rocks which provide shelter for this species and predation by domestic and feral cats. Overcollecting by herpetoculturalists can destroy local populations of this slowly maturing lizard.