Solomon Islands Skink Fact File
Credit: Public Domain
Wild 15 years
Captive 15 years
The Solomon Islands Skink is also known as the prehensile-tailed skink or monkey-tailed skink. They are considered to be the world’s largest species of skink reaching lengths of up to 75cm (30in) long.
These animals form family groups known as a circulus made up of a pair and their offspring. Unlike most other lizards they give birth to live young which are cared for by their parents for up to 6 months.
They are the only skink on record as being completely herbivorous eating leaves and fruit.
Unfortunately their population is declining as a result of capture for the pet trade and deforestation.
Read on to learn more about these remarkable reptiles.
What does the Solomon Islands Skink look like?
The Solomon Islands skink features a wedge-shaped head. Their scales are colored olive-green, black, yellow or greyish. These various colors form random patterns of spots and stripes across their back.
Each of their feet feature small claws which assist them with climbing. The limbs are well developed to further assist this.
Unusually among lizards these animals have a long, rounded tail which is prehensile. This means it is able to grab on to objects. Their adaptation means they are able to grasp branches to maintain balance in the trees. This tail accounts for over half of their length.
An average Solomon Islands Skink will measure 75cm (30in) long and weigh 0.9kg (2lbs). They are the world’s largest species of skink.
What does the Solomon Islands Skink eat?
These reptiles are herbivores, the only skink known to be entirely herbivorous. They feed on leaves and fruit. A favorite food of the species is the Solomon Island creeper plant.
Much of their water needs are met by the foliage and fruits in their diet. Occasionally they descend to the ground to eat free water.
They have shown a tolerance to some mildly toxic plants which they can feed on with little to no consequences.
Credit: Public Domain
Where can you find the Solomon Islands Skink?
These animals are restricted solely to the Solomon Islands located in the Pacific Ocean.
What kind of environment does the Solomon Islands Skink live in?
These animals make their home in rainforests. They are arboreal and the majority of their time is spent in the trees.
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How does the Solomon Islands Skink produce its young?
Females will give birth to up to two young at a time after a 6 to 8 month gestation period. At birth these young are already one-third of the adult size. They are one of the few lizards which will give birth to live young.
Soon after birth these animals will feed on their placental sac and this provides their food needs for the first few days of life.
Their mother is highly protective of the young. Both parents provide care to the young for the first few months of life and they remain with their parents till they go off to form their own family.
Sexual maturity is achieved by two years old when they begin to move out on their own.
What does the Solomon Islands Skink do with its day?
These reptiles are active by night. During the day they will seek out shelter in a tree hollow.
They are considered arboreal and spend much of their time in the trees.
This species will form a loose family group. These typically consist of a mated pair and their young. Males are highly territorial. A group of these lizards is known a circulus.
Credit: Public Domain
Predators and Threats
What is impacting the survival of the Solomon Islands Skink?
Natural predators of the Solomon Islands skink include birds of prey, snakes and rats.
If threatened the Solomon Islands skink will hiss at the aggressor and raise up on its legs. As a last resort they will bite.
Unlike many other species of skink these reptiles do not have the ability to regenerate their tail if it is lost.
While they have not been assessed by the IUCN this species is known to be threatened by loss of habitat due to the rapid expansion of agriculture on the islands they inhabit.
Large numbers are also collected for sale in to the pet trade.
The low reproductive rate of this species is contributing to their decline.
They are the world’s largest species of skink and as such are sometimes referred to as the giant Solomon Island skink. Other alternative names for the species include the monkey-tailed skink, green tree skink or prehensile-tailed skink.
Their species name, zebrata comes from a Latin form of the word zebra.
Credit: Basile Morin, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
The Maryland Zoo. 2021. Prehensile-tailed Skink | The Maryland Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.marylandzoo.org/animal/prehensile-tailed-skink/> [Accessed 25 October 2021].
Elmwood Park Zoo. 2021. Prehensile-Tailed Skink – Elmwood Park Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.elmwoodparkzoo.org/animal/prehensile-tailed-skink/> [Accessed 25 October 2021].
Rosamond Gifford Zoo. 2021. Prehensile-tailed Skink – Rosamond Gifford Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.rosamondgiffordzoo.org/experience/animals/reptiles/prehensile-tailed-skink/> [Accessed 25 October 2021].
Reptilescove.com. 2021. Monkey-Tailed Skink / Solomon Islands Skink Care Sheet. [online] Available at: <https://reptilescove.com/care/lizards/monkey-tailed-skink> [Accessed 25 October 2021].
Australian Reptile Park. 2021. Solomon Island Skink – Australian Reptile Park. [online] Available at: <https://www.reptilepark.com.au/solomon-island-skink/> [Accessed 25 October 2021].
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