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Natural history of the New Caledonian whiptailed skink Tropidoscincus variabilis (Bavay, 1869) (Squamata: Scincidae)

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Tropidoscincus variabilis is a medium-sized, long-limbed and long-tailed skink from New Caledonia with strong ontogenetic change in coloration, juveniles being very brightly coloured. It is primarily an inhabitant of forested habitats, but also occurs in maquis heathlands. Mature females are similar in size to mature males, but have proportionally longer bodies and shorter heads and limbs, and a less brightly orange venter. Body length (axilla-groin length) increases in positive allometry to snout-vent length (SVL), while limb lengths and head length increase in negative allometry to SVL (except in males, where limb length increases isometrically). Head width and depth increase in positive allometry to head length, while tail length increases in isometry with SVL. Reproduction is seasonal in both sexes, with gonadal cycles peaking in late spring. Females lay 2-4 eggs in summer, and young hatch in late summer. More than one year of growth is required to attain maturity. Diet consists of a wide range of invertebrates, particularly arthropods, and with large numbers of spiders and crickets. Juveniles eat more spiders, bugs and isopods than adults. The long limbs and ontogenetic change in coloration of this species are not explained by its known biology.

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Veterinary Science B01, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia, Department of Herpetology, Australian Museum, 6 College Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia;, Email:; 2: Laboratoire de Zoologie appliquée, UR 022/CBGP, Institut de recherche pour le développement, BP A5/98848, Nouméa Cedex, New Caledonia; 3: Department of Herpetology, Australian Museum, 6 College Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia; 4: Department of Biology, Villanova University, 800 Lancaster Avenue, Villanova, Pennsylvania 19085-1699, USA


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