Art. XIV.—Description of a small Lizard, a Species of Naultinus, supposed to be new to Science.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 1st October 1884.]
Naultinus versicolor, sp. nov
General Colour.—Above light brownish-black or dark grey, spotted with small dark spots; six broad dark-umber zig-zag, or double VV, shaped bands across the body, and nine similar ones across the tail, 15 in all, and
regularly placed, having lighter scales in the anterior angles; a dark line from the lower angle of eye to that of mouth, and another from the upper angle of eye to over the ear; a narrow dark transverse band from eye to eye in front, and a cross dark band (St. Andrew's Cross) on vertex; below of a light-greyish colour with small dark spots.
Vertex depressed; eyebrows very prominent (porrected) with 2–3 rows of dark pointed scales, upper row black: snout very obtuse; on both upper and lower lips, 11 large greyish scales on each side of the rostral ones which are much larger, but the upper rostral is larger than that of the chin, and extends to the nostrils; two large scales immediately above the upper rostral one, and four similar scales around each nostril; nostrils circular; aural apertures oblong, large. A number of small pointed simple glassy teeth in both jaws; tongue roundly-spathulate, very long and extensible, thin, deeply emarginate, red; the palate salmon-colour. Body narrow and round, back arched, not broad and flat as in N. pacificus. Toes all regularly barred with blackish lines; the fourth toe is the longest on each foot, and at a great distance from the fifth one on the hind feet, the soles also of the hind pair are large and flat. Its tail is very prehensile, so that it can curl its tip around a lead pencil, or a quill, and swing thereby; it can also hang by a single toe-nail (which are exceedingly sharp pointed and curved) and so remain for a short time; it also leaps well and fearlessly from a height of 2–3 feet. Length—head and body, 4 inches; tail, 4 ½ inches=8 ½ inches.
Hab. In forests near Norsewood, County of Waipawa; 1883: W.C. Also at Glenross, County of Hawke's Bay; 1884: Mr. D. P. Balfour.
Obs. I obtained two fine living specimens of this lizard last summer while in those woods; and one since, a smaller one, also living, from Mr. Balfour; this last is still living, although it has not eaten anything since I received it nearly six weeks back. It has only taken at intervals of several days a very little water, and this when I put it into a wash-hand basin to take a swim; when, on taking it out, it invariably licks up a few drops. Hitherto it has refused flies, as food, which my other lizards always greedily ate; and I have supposed such might be owing to its hybernating season not being over. It is exceedingly quiet, and rarely moves about. Their peculiar and regular double VV dark and variegated bands are the same in all three specimens; but it is not from that fact that it derives its trivial name, but from a much more strange one (though not wholly unknown to the family), viz., it often changes its ground-colour of grey to a pink-red, and this it does sometimes three or four times in a day; the cause, however, of its doing so is wholly unknown to me. I have often tried, by altering its position as to light, and to heat (sun), and also by giving it a little gentle shaking (in its glass house!) if I could cause it to change its colour, but I
have never once succeeded; it seems to be entirely dependent on itself (possibly emotional), and not arising from any outward cause—nor from the time of day; neither is it regular in its changes. At first, I was a little astonished, and could scarcely believe my own eyes, until I had repeatedly proved the event; the change of colour is always equally the same, extending all over its body.
This lizard is also infested with a tiny red parasite, that sticks on between its scales in the outer angles of the thighs of its hindlegs, where it lives together in little clusters of 12–16. This parasite has a thickish body, rather soft, and is very difficult to remove entire. I suppose it to be an insect of the Hemiptera order. I have sent specimens of it to Professor Hutton at Christchurch, and to Mr. Maskell at the Museum, Wellington, for examination, etc.