Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Tasmanian Tree Skink

.....Niveoscincus pretiosus

This lizard of the family Scincidae was first decribed by English poet and naturalist, Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy in 1874. (see below for a sample of his poetry) The latin name pretiosus can mean costly/precious or extravagant. When I see names like this I always wonder what was in the mind of the namer. Perhaps it was costly because, as I have done in the past, he dropped his camera or other expensive equipment while studying the species ;-) More likely it was seen to be extravagant because they will often have a orange/pink/red colouration around the vent and the underside of the tail.

The Tasmanian Tree Skink is endemic to Tasmania and some of it's off shore islands. As the common name suggests they can be found on among the crevices and furrows of trees, particularly dead trees or dead limbs.. They have been found as high as 15m. They will also inhabit old logs or even rocks.

The lizards in my photos below were found at Guide Falls. Along the side of the track is an old retaining wall built from wooden sleepers. The sleepers are very old and rotten and full of cracks and crevices. To the skinks of course these are just like any other fallen log on the forest floor. They are often found in large groups and this is certainly the case at Guide Falls where I have often seen dozens of them basking in the sun. As you approach they will quickly disappear into some nook or cranny but if you sit still they will slowly make there way back out.

The first three photos were taken last week. The last one was taken in October 2007.

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)

Tasmanian Tree Skink - Niveoscincus pretiosus

Tasmanian Tree Skink - Niveoscincus pretiosus

Tasmanian Tree Skink - Niveoscincus pretiosus

Tasmanian Tree Skinks - Niveoscincus pretiosus

Some poetic lines from O'Shaughnessy's book Music and Moonlight (1874):

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.


  1. Nice ones Alan, I've never seen skinks in a group like that.

  2. Thanks Duncan - There's a large colony in that wall and some were hanging out in 2's or 3's. It makes for a better photo too.