Two new species of lizards, the gecko and the skink, discovered in the South Island

Mataura chain skink. Photo / Carey Knox

Two new species of lizards have been discovered in the South Island.

Genetic testing has confirmed the new species based on findings made during the Department of Conservation’s surveys of alpine areas on the South Island last summer.

A skink and gecko – found in the Mataura Range in Southland and Nelson Lakes National Park respectively – are new to science but have yet to be officially described.

Dr Jo Monks, DoC science adviser and lizard survey project leader, said intensive lizard surveys are digging up lizards in our less explored places.

“We are still in the era of our lizard discovery, and we will likely find more of them as we continue our investigative work this summer.”

Over the past 30 years, the number of known lizard species has almost quadrupled with new discoveries, she said.

The gecko found in Nelson Lakes National Park.  Photo / Ben Barr
The gecko found in Nelson Lakes National Park. Photo / Ben Barr

“New Zealand has more endemic lizard species than endemic birds, so it really is a ‘land of lizards’ as well as a ‘land of birds.’

Once the last two species have been officially described, further studies will allow us to learn more about them, to determine their conservation status and how to manage them.

A spokesperson said genetic testing also confirmed that a gecko, first found in the mountains near Haast last summer, is the same one previously known only on tiny islands off the South -Where is. This completely changes what we know about this gecko.

Several new populations of cryptic skinks, Eyres skinks and cascading geckos have also been confirmed.

The DoC will lead further alpine lizard surveys over the next two summers, with funding from Budget 2018 for work on little-known species.

Makaawhio Rūnanga is also involved in lizard surveys in the southwest of the country through the Jobs for Nature program.

“It’s exciting to have our Mahaki Ki Taiao group leading this kaupapa in the southwest of the country with the possibility that they will discover more species of lizards now that their eyes are more tuned.” said Makaawhio Rūnanga chairman Paul Madgwick.

New Zealand has 126 species of geckos and skinks, including the two new ones, which are not found anywhere else in the world.

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