Fijian copper-headed skink (Emoia parkeri)

Fijian copper-headed skink (Emoia parkeri)

The Fijian copper-headed skink (Emoia parkeri) is a medium sized skink, with adults measuring 43-52 mm snout-vent length (SVL) and hatchlings 23-26 mm SVL.

Also known as: Fijian Copper-Headed Skink

Local Names: ?

Description

The Fijian copper-headed skink is a medium sized skink, with adults measuring 43-52 mm snout-vent length (SVL) and hatchlings 23-26 mm SVL. The tail length is 1.5 times longer than the SVL. Like other skinks, the Fijian copper-headed skink has five digits, with the fourth toes being the longest. The Fijian copper-headed skink is quite distinguishable from other skinks by the dorsal surface colour which is greenish copper in colour, with a bright copper head and neck. It also has a dark brown or nearly black eye stripe. The back and sides are dotted with dark brown scales. The ventral surface has a coppery ivory chin and throat while the remainder is a light yellowish green, with an occasionally emerald green belly.

Habitat Ecology and Behaviour

The Fijian copper-headed skink occurs in rainforest (from the coast to 500m), secondary forest and the drier forests of western Viti Levu. Observations of this skink have primarily been on tree trunks with buttresses, deep fissures, or a covering of epiphytes or vines. They have also been observed foraging on the ground.

Like other skinks in Fiji, the Fijian copper-headed skink is a diurnal species and is semi-arboreal. These are quite active and alert lizards that stop and bask only briefly. They do not move far from their home log or tree.

Little is known of its reproductive biology, and has never been studied in detail. However, to date, only a single clutch of eggs has been found just above ground level in an earth-filled crevice.

Threats

Because of the lack of data available on this species, we cannot be certain of the threats to this endemic skink. However, we can assume, that like the other populations of our native skinks, they are greatly threatened by introduced mammals such as rats, feral cats, feral pigs and the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus).

Habitat loss and fragmentation are also a potential threat as the Fijian copper-headed skink is a forest or woodland species. The mongoose has been attributed to the elimination of the lowland populations on Viti Levu.

 Fijian copper-headed skink Emoia parkeri, Photo: Ryan Photographic

Fijian copper-headed skink Emoia parkeri, Photo: Ryan Photographic

 Emoia parkeri map

Emoia parkeri map

Distribution

This endemic skink has been recorded from Viti Levu, Kadavu, Ovalau and Taveuni.

Conservation Status

Coastal populations of this species are largely extinct. This species was very common in the now logged forest of the Nausori Highlands in Viti Levu. Whether this species still occurs there or not will need to be ascertained. More work needs to be conducted on this species, as it is probably one of Fiji’s endangered reptiles. To confirm this, a survey of the status of this species on all the islands is the most obvious first step.

This species is not protected under any current legislation.Remarks and

Cultural Significance

Coastal populations of this species are largely extinct. This species was very common in the now logged forest of the Nausori Highlands in Viti Levu. Whether this species still occurs there or not will need to be ascertained. More work needs to be conducted on this species, as it is probably one of Fiji’s endangered reptiles. To confirm this, a survey of the status of this species on all the islands is the most obvious first step.

This species is not protected under any current legislation.

References

Morrison 2003;

Ryan 2000;

Zug 1985; 1991.