ZB

Two new lizard species discovered in South Island

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 Dec 2021, 1:48pm
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Two new lizard species discovered in South Island

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 Dec 2021, 1:48pm

Two new lizard species have been found in the South Island. 

Genetic tests have confirmed the new species from discoveries made during Department of Conservation surveys in South Island alpine areas last summer. 

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

DoC science adviser and lizard survey project leader, Dr Jo Monks, said the intensive lizard surveys are unearthing lizards in our least explored places. 

"We're still in the age of discovery for our lizards, and we're likely to find more as we continue our survey work this summer." 

Over the past 30 years, the number of known lizard species has increased nearly four-fold with new discoveries, she said.  

The gecko found in the 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'." 

After the latest two species have been formally described, further surveys will help to learn more about them, and determine their conservation status and how to manage them. 

A spokesperson said the genetic tests have also confirmed a gecko, found for the first time in the mountains near Haast last summer, is the same as one previously known only on tiny offshore islands in South Westland. This completely changes what is known about this gecko. 

Several new populations of cryptic skinks, Eyres skinks and cascade geckos were also confirmed. 

DoC will lead further alpine lizard surveys over the next two summers, enabled by funding in Budget 2018 for work on little known species. 

Makaawhio Rūnanga are also involved in lizard surveys in South Westland through the Jobs for Nature programme. 

"It's exciting to have our Mahaki Ki Taiao group leading this kaupapa in South Westland with the possibility they will discover more lizard species now their eyes are more attuned," says Makaawhio Rūnanga chairman Paul Madgwick. 

New Zealand has 126 gecko and skink species, counting the two new ones, found nowhere else in the world.