Terror skink

Terror skink

Terror skink, Bocourt's terrific skink, Bocourt's eyelid skink, Bocourt's skink

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SPECIES
Phoboscincus bocourti

The terror skink (Phoboscincus bocourti), also called commonly Bocourt's terrific skink, Bocourt's eyelid skink and Bocourt's skink, is a species of lizard in the family Scincidae. The species is endemic to the Île des Pins (Isle of Pines), a small islet off the coast of New Caledonia. First described in 1876, the species was presumed to be extinct, but was rediscovered in 1993, and since then several individuals have been seen. Because of its small area of occupation and small population size, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has assessed its conservation status as being "critically endangered".

Animal name origin

The specific name, bocourti, is in honor of French zoologist Marie Firmin Bocourt.

Appearance

P. bocourti is about 50 centimetres (20 in) in total length (including tail), and 28 cm (11 in) in SVL making it the third largest reptilian predator on the island, the others being an extinct terrestrial crocodile, Mekosuchus, and a goanna.

Distribution

Geography

Biogeographical realms

Phoboscincus bocourti is endemic to two islets ashore of the Île des Pins (Isle of Pines), an island off the coast of New Caledonia. Its extant range is severely limited as the islet's surfaces combine to about 0.9 square kilometres (0.35 sq mi). However, it may be present on other islands in the locality.

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This rare species was considered extinct until being rediscovered in 1993, and in December 2003, a specimen was found by some specialists from the French Muséum national d'histoire naturelle (the animal was photographed and filmed before being released). Before, it was only known from a single specimen, collected on the same island by a man named Balanza. Additional individual specimens have been discovered in 2009, 2013 and 2018.

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Terror skink habitat map

Biome

Terror skink habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

P. bocourti is presumed to be diurnal and mainly terrestrial, but may be partially arboreal.

Lifestyle

Diet and Nutrition

The teeth of P. bocourti are long, curved and sharp, suggesting predatory habits unusual for a large skink; most skinks are omnivorous. For a significant period of time, its diet went unknown; potential prey were thought to be larger invertebrates, other lizards, young birds, and eggs.Some clans claim that the terror skink has earned its name because of its notable ability to feast on the fingers and other worm-like body parts of both children and adults.

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A 2022 study found P. bocourti to largely be a dietary specialist on Geograpsus land crabs, namely the species Geograpsus grayi, with it using its large teeth and incredibly high bite force to penetrate the crabs' tough exoskeleton. This makes it the only known species of skink with a diet consisting of land crabs. However, it was also found to prey on another giant lizard sharing its habitat, the New Caledonian giant gecko (Rhacodactylus leachianus ). In its area P. bocourti an apex predator.

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Population

Population threats

With such a small area of occupation, P. bocourti is subject to threats such as habitat loss through a typhoon or wildfire, and the possibility of predatory animals being introduced to the island. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has assessed its conservation status as being "critically endangered".

References

1. Terror skink Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terror_skink
2. Terror skink on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/17008/6705441

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