For millions of years, New Zealand’s frogs and reptiles have persisted in a climatically and geologically volatile, Gondwanan-relict landscape. This herpetofauna is globally unique given its high level of endemic diversity, longevity, thermal and reproductive adaptations to temperate climates, and ancient evolutionary history. The iconic tuatara, for instance, is the sole living representative of a lineage that dates back over 220 million years!
The living New Zealand herpetofauna consists of:
- 1 species of tuatara
- 43 endemic species of geckos (including undescribed taxa)
- 61 species of skinks
- 4 species of frogs
One gecko species, one skink species and three frog species are extinct.
Taxonomy is constantly changing these numbers, particularly as previously cryptic taxa are identified. Since human arrival in New Zealand ~ 750 years ago, habitat clearance and the introduction of mammalian predators (e.g. rats) led to rapid population declines. Consequently, many New Zealand lizards and frogs are threatened with extinction, hence they are of high conservation priority. Three species of Australian frogs were introduced to New Zealand and have naturalised here, as has the invasive plague (or rainbow) skink.
Advice on what to do if you suspect you’ve found a plague skink is available at: http://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/pests-and-threats/animal-pests/plague-skinks/
For more information on New Zealand herpetofauna, please follow the links below:
- Reptiles and Amphibians of Otago – PDF booklet produced by Sophie Penniket, Carey Knox, Alison Cree and Phil Bishop on behalf of SRARNZ
- Tuatara: biology and conservation of a venerable survivor – by Alison Cree- http://www.otago.ac.nz/zoology/research/otago071962.html
- New Zealand lizards – by David Chapple- http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319416724#aboutBook
- New Zealand Lizards Database- https://nzlizards.landcareresearch.co.nz/
- New Zealand frogs– http://www.nzfrogs.org/NZ+Frogs.html
- New Zealand Department of Conservation- http://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/reptiles-and-frogs/
- Te Papa o Tongarewa Museum Collections Online- https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/topic/2868/
- BioGecko: a journal for New Zealand herpetology- http://www.biogecko.co.nz/