Thursday, 10 March 2016

Geckos and Skinks - what's the difference?

Rare native birds get a good deal of press in New Zealand, but some of our other endangered natives get less attention, particularly the ones that are good at hiding! Often the most you'll see of a skink is a flash of brown as it streaks across a stony path into the grass. And for geckos which are nocturnal the most you might see is a discarded frail white skin.
A flash of brown and it's gone - skinks move fast

Because you don't get to see them close up, you'd be forgiven for thinking they're all the same species. In fact there are more than 99 species of geckos and skinks in New Zealand! They are pretty special, New Zealand is the only place in the world that many of these species are found. 

Geckos and Skinks - what's the difference?

Geckos have:
  • soft, slightly baggy skin
  • a distinct neck between head and arms
  • sticky toes

Skinks have:
  • shiny, scaly skin
  • no narrow neck between head and arms
  • pointy toes (this one has lost a toe, too)

Here are links to identification charts with photos and descriptions. Skinks of the Wellington Region Identification and Geckos of the Wellington Region Identification.

See if you can use them to identify the gecko and skink above.
If you found that hard, maybe try the one below!
Gecko in Zealandia

You can't keep native lizards as pets. They are protected under law - it's illegal to hunt, kill, sell, dispose of, or have in your possession any protected species. But no one has told that to rats, stoats, cats, hedgehogs and mice!

But you can make your garden lizard friendly. Here are some tips 

Useful links:
Department of Conservation information about lizards:

Other blogposts I've written about lizards

In my books
Geckos and skinks are in In the Garden, and the green gecko is in In the Bush.

ID answers: 
Common gecko (check toes and colour)
Brown Skink (markings around face)
Green gecko (colour!)