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Tuatara: Volume 9, Issue 3, January 1962

Combat in the Common New Zealand Skink

Combat in the Common New Zealand Skink

Mr. R. E. Barwick's intimate account of the common skink, Leiolopisma zelandica (Trans. Roy. Soc. N.Z., 84 (3 and 4), describes (p. 377) that these small lizards have a home range in the order of some fifteen square yards which may overlap, but defensive territorial behaviour, known in some skinks, is not exhibited. The following observation of combat between two adults is unique in my experience of casual observation over the past twenty years.

At nine o'clock on the bright sunny morning of January 8 two lizards, closely locked head to head and belly to belly, rolled over and over on to a pathway. The lizards separated, commenced circling about six inches apart, each making an occasional quick dart across the circle at the other, apparently attempting to seize the body with the mouth just before the hind legs. When successful, the lizard caught would extend its body to full length and roll away so breaking from the captor. Both were successful in attack and defence on a total together of five attacks in a period of nearly two and a half minutes. The combat was marked by a high sustained speed of action and terminated with the one lizard running into grass followed by the other. Both were gravid females. This incident may have in it some element of the aggressiveness and readiness to attack characteristic of the gravid female of the otherwise docile north American garter snake. Thamnopis sirtalis.

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