Recently, Sam Fisher (an undergrad just starting in the lab), Bob, and I started a project surveying for Oceanic Snake-eyed Skinks (Cryptoblepharus poecilopleurus) in Hawaii. These lizards live in rocky coastal habitats on islands throughout the Pacific that usually have harsh, hot and xeric microclimates. They are pretty neat (you can see in the picture below why they are called “snake-eyed” skinks). Historically, it was assumed that these skinks were introduced to Hawaii by the Polynesian’s when they came here, however, this is mainly speculation, and it has also been suggested that they potentially dispersed here naturally. The earliest reports of these skinks in Hawaii are from the 1800’s, but more recently, they appear to be declining throughout the islands. This is particularly the case on Oahu, where they have not been recorded since the 1980’s, however, the specific cause of this decline is unknown.
Back in August, we did some preliminary surveys for them at several historical localities on the north shore of Oahu in collaboration with Robert Fisher of the USGS. We didn’t find any skinks during these surveys, though we did find lots of introduced geckos (Hemidactylus frenatus and Lepidodactylus lugubris). Interestingly, many of the Hemidactylus we saw were actively foraging during the day, even though they are typically nocturnal geckos. A couple weeks ago, Sam and I went over to the Bishop Museum of Natural History to examine the specimens of snake-eyed skinks that had been deposited in the collection from Hawaii. There were specimen records from six different localities on Oahu, although most of the specimens were collected in the early 1900’s. The most recent and intriguing record is from 1982 from “Black Point”, a rocky, coastal point right next to Diamond Head, however, this specimen appears to be missing from the collection. In the next couple weeks, we’ll be performing more re-surveys of historical localities, and surveys in habitats that look appropriate nearby, so stay tuned for more information.