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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







'Lesser Sunda Dark-throated Skink'

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5

Fig 6


Species : Sphenomorphus melanopogon
Size (snout to vent) : 6.8 cm
Size (total length) : approx 19 cm

This wide-ranging species lacks a common name, so the title 'Lesser Sunda Dark-throated Skink' is coined here, occurring as it does in many islands of the Lesser Sundas (Nusa Tenggara), central Indonesia.

This is a predominantly terrestrial species, though large adults may climb onto fallen trees and juveniles may climb a metre or two up tree trunks.

The scientific name of Sphenomorphus melanopogon describes a dark throat, however it appears that only fully grown specimens may exhibit a dark throat if at all, and this feature appears more common in males. Where the dark throat is absent, the throat appears to very pale to creamy yellow. The species has also been named Sphenomorphus florensis in the past.

Assembled here (Figs 1 to 5) are images from western Flores and Pulau Rinca, an island lying between Komodo and Flores, which show a bewildering array of patterns including striations, flecks, patches and stripes, as well as throat and neck colours ranging from cream to orange to black. It is interpreted that these patterns and colours are related to age, gender, or seasonal factors.

Some authors interpret different subspecies on different islands, but Shea (2012) does not agree. Rather, it appears that in the west of the species range the throat is pale, and in the east the throat is generally dark.

In western Flores and adjacent areas, where Figures 1 to 5 were taken, and which is in the central part of the species range, a dark throat appears to be the exception.

In the field the species can be identified on the basis of finely striated dorsal scales, and the possible presence of a black throat. Other key characteristics listed by Shea (2012), such as the presence of imbricate scales on the feet extending onto the base of the feet between the 4th and 5th digits, as well as specific scale arrangements on the head cannot be seen in the field.

This species occurs on many islands of the Lesser Sundas (Nusa Tenggara) of Indonesia too numerous to list here, but the range includes the larger islands of Sumbawa, Sumba, Komodo (and Rinca), Flores and Timor.

Fig 1 : Large, robust specimen from Pulau Rinca. The dark throat is well-developed in this specimen, which is clearly S. melanopogon, and measures around 7 cm or more snout-to-vent. Found in open woodland habitat.

Fig 2 : A smaller skink from Pulau Rinca, of around 6 cm snout-to-vent, lacking a dark throat. Tentatively this is also an example of S. melanopogon.

Fig 3 : This skink from Labuanbajo, western Flores, displays a finely striated dorsum, a feature which is often indicative of S. melanopogon.

Fig 5 : Orange-throated specimen, of around 5 cm snout-to-vent, from Labuanbajo, western Flores. This skink shares some features with S. melanopogon, such as the finely striated dorsum.

Fig 5 : Juvenile skink of around 4 cm snout-to-vent,
with dark stripe along the flank. Seen at Labuanbajo, western Flores. Such juveniles also occur on Komodo Island, and may represent young S. melanopogon.

Fig 6 : Skink from the northern slope of Mt. Rinjani, Lombok (elevation 500 metres) which shows some similarities to S. melanopogon.

References :

Shea, G. M.  2012. On the identity of the type species of Sphenomorphus (Squamata: Scincidae): Lygosoma melanopogon Dum駻il and Bibron 1839, with a note on a new scalation character of the pes in Sphenomorphus. Zootaxa 3490:1-29.