Giant Tongan Skink

An unknown Lizard of Oceania.

Physical description: Total length, about 18 inches long. Diameter, 1-1.5 inches. Dull green, with blackish markings. Behavior: Runs away swiftly. Habitat: Wooded areas. Distribution: Tongatapu Island, Tonga. Significant sightings: Lannon Oldenburg saw a lizard about 18 inches long running across the ground in a plantation near Tupou College. It was dull green with black markings and lacked a middorsal ridge.

Peter Chignell observed a large lizard in an isolated stand of forest near an ancient burial mound during a burn-off of some scrubland. It was about 1.4 inches in diameter.

Present status: John R. H. Gibbons conducted an extensive search for skinks in the remaining stand of forest on Tongatapu in 1985. No unknown species were found. Deforestation and the introduction of cats and rats have made it difficult for any large lizards to survive on Ton-gatapu. Neighboring Eua' Island holds more promise.

Possible explanations:

(1) A Giant skink (Tachygyia microlepis), known only from two specimens probably collected from Tongatapu Island in 1827 by J. R. C. Quoy and J. P. Guimard, was over 12 inches long. However, its coloration was dark brown, with no markings. Also, this species probably crawled rather than ran.

(2) An unnamed, olive-brown skink (Emoia trossula) found in Tonga and Fiji is more likely, though it rarely exceeds 6 inches in length.

Source: Ivan Ineich and George R. Zug, " Tachygyia, the Giant Tongan Skink: Extinct or Extant?" Cryptozoology 12 (1996): 30-35.

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  • gavin
    Why is the tongan skink extinct?
    8 years ago

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