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Home  >  Our lizards  >  Southern grass skink

Southern grass skink

English name: Southern grass skink


Scientific name: Oligosoma aff. polychroma Clade 5


Conservation status: At risk, declining


Found: South Island only, on the east of the main divide from central Canterbury south as far as Stewart Island. 


Did you know: They can have up to six babies at a time

Southern grass skink, Central Otago (4)

Southern grass skink. Carey Knox

Southern grass skink, Central Otago (2)

Southern grass skink. Carey Knox

Southern grass skink, Central Otago copy

Southern grass skink. Carey Knox


Small, sleek and glowing brown, the southern grass skink is a reasonably common inhabitant of the Otago drylands. They are ground-dwelling sun-baskers, and the sight of a fast disappearing flash of brown could be either one of these species or the similar looking and abundant McCanns skink. 


The southern grass skink has a dark tan band down the centre of its back. Along its sides are two prominent cream stripes with a dark brown band between. Its eyes are coloured hazel or light brown, and its underside is usually a dull yellowish brown. It has a blunt nose, and is about 80mm SVL.


It can live in a wide range of habitat types, from shore, dune and wetlands to grass, shrub and tussocklands. It can be found on forest edges, scree and boulder slopes, in exotic forestry and even in suburban gardens. It can use the burrows of invertebrates like worms, spiders and wetas to retreat from predators and to escape the winter cold. 


Southern grass skinks eat small invertebrates such as spiders, insects, molluscs and worms, and they actively pursue their prey. They supplement this with some soft fruit including berries. Maturing at two or three years, they have three to six live young every summer. They are reasonably short-lived, only surviving four to six years. 

SVL grass

SVL: Snout to vent length. A measurement of size taken from the tip of an animal's nose to the opening of the cloaca (the combined excretory and genital opening) at the base of the tail. It is the common length measurement used for lizards. 


Hitchmough, R. et al. (2015). Conservation Status of New Zealand Reptiles 2015. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 17. Department of Conservation. Wellington, NZ.


van Winkel et al. (2018). Reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand: A field guide. New Zealand: Auckland University Press. 

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