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

 
     
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

   
   
 
Yellow Striped Tree Skink
   
   

Fig 1


Fig 2
 

Fig 3
 

Fig 4
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family : SCINCIDAE
Species : Lipinia vittigera
Size (snout to vent) : to ~ 4 cm
Size (total length) : to ~ 10 cm

Lipinia vittigera is an easily overlooked, slender-bodied skink which (in the strict sense) occurs in Singapore, Peninsular Malaysia (including the islands of Penang and Tioman), southernmost Thailand, the Mentawai islands off the west coast of Sumatra, and (parts of) Borneo; the northern limit of the species is uncertain (Nikolay et al, 2019). 

Specimens from Tioman, off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, have a much narrower yellow vertebral stripe than examples from the mainland (Grismer, 2011).

The English name 'Yellow Striped Tree skink', as used in Singapore, is our preferred name, being both descriptive and ecologically accurate. The species was first described from Sipora Island, part of the Mentawai Islands group, and is also referred to as 'Sipora Striped Skink'.

The preferred niche of Lipinia vittigera are tree trunks and branches, particularly where bark crevices allow an easy grasp; individuals can quickly retreat these crevices when threatened.

This species occurs in primary and tall secondary forest in lowlands and hills to around 600 metres elevation (Grismer, 2011). It is strictly diurnal, and can be observed foraging for small insect prey in direct sunlight.

It is easily identified by its yellow vertebral stripe, bounded on each side by a black stripe. The upper surface of the tail is also yellow (yellowish-orange in smaller, juvenile specimens). 

The tail is highly flexible; the posterior part of the tail can be curled back 180 degrees to lie parallel with the anterior part. Sometimes the tail is moved in a flexing, sinuous motion.

In Indochina, related species of the Lipinia vittigera complex are now recognised as distinct species (Nikolay et al, 2019). For example, Lipinia microcerca (Banded Lipinia).


Fig 1 : Example from primary, lowland forest at the base of Penang Hill, Pulau Pinang, Peninsular Malaysia

Fig 2 : Example from primary, lowland forest at Bukit Timah, Singapore.

Fig 3 : This skink was encountered in tall, secondary forest at Gunung Pulai, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 4 : Example from tall, secondary forest at Taiping, Perak, Peninsular Malaysia. Note the extremely flexible tail.


References :

Grismer, L.L., 2011. Lizards of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and their Adjacent Archipelagos. Edition Chimaira.

Nikolay A. Poyarkov Jr., Peter Geissler, Vladislav A. Gorin, Evgeniy A. Dunayev, Timo Hartmann, Chatmongkon Suwannapoom (2019). Counting stripes: revision of the Lipinia vittigera complex (Reptilia, Squamata, Scincidae) with description of two new species from Indochina. Zoological Research, 2019, 40(5): 358-393.