Prehensile-tailed skink

(Corucia zebrata)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in tree canopies in tropical rainforests of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, Northeast of Australia.

Size: 32 inches long (including tail); 14-28 ounces

Wild Diet: Leaves (primarily of the Soloman Island creeper), flowers, vegetables, and fruits

Predators: Birds of prey, rats, snakes, and humans

Reproduction: Prehensile-tailed skinks mate in trees. They are ovoviviparous, meaning that eggs are produced but hatch inside the female before the young are born. Females usually give birth to a single offspring after a gestation of 6-7 months. Babies are 6-9 inches long and are protected by both parents for about 6 months--a form of care that is rare among reptiles.

Behavior: Prehensile-tailed skinks are nocturnal and crepuscular and rarely stray far from their shelter. Unlike other skinks, they are arboreal, usually found in the oldest trees of old-growth forests. Muscular tails, strong digits and sharp claws help them move around tree canopies. They tend to stay in small family groups called "circuli" (singular "circulus").

Conservation

IUCN Status: Not Evaluated

Prehensile-tailed skink populations have been exploited for the pet trade and extensive logging in the Solomon Islands has shrunk their habitat. Their low reproductive rates leave them vulnerable to these threats.

Did you know?

  • The prehensile-tailed skink is the largest living species of skink and the only one adapted for an arboreal lifestyle.
  • Skinks get most of their water from foliage, fruits, and vegetables but may occasionally descend to the ground in order to drink.
  • They are also known as monkey-tailed skinks, Solomon Island skinks, and giant skinks.
  • Unlike some other lizards, these skinks do not have the ability to regenerate their tail.
  • Their tail is prehensile, meaning that it can be wrapped around objects like branches for balance. They are the only skinks with this type of tail.
  • They are the only completely herbivorous skinks.