Art. VIII.—On the Occurrence of the English Scaly Lizard (Zootoca vivipara) in New Zealand.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 30th June, 1886.]
In August of 1883 I had the pleasure of bringing under the notice of the Society two English butterflies—viz., the Red Admiral, or Alderman, and the Small Tortoiseshell, both of which were captured in the Wellington Botanic Gardens—and drew attention to the fact that the importation of plants and
seeds from various countries had become so extensive that it was almost certain much foreign animal life, some useful and some destructive, would be brought into the colony. It was also pointed out that, in order that the noxious forms might be more speedily detected, and to prevent confusion in future publications, it was advisable that the occurrence of unknown or uncommon species in a district should be promptly recorded.
The importation which I have now to notice is much higher in the scale than those already mentioned. It is the English Scaly Lizard (probably familiar to many persons present who in their young days rambled about the English country districts). As its food consists exclusively of insects, it is not likely to prove an unwelcome visitor.
Several specimens were captured about a year ago, on the Tinakori Hills, and one on the road, as it was crossing from the Botanic Gardens towards the shelter of the opposite bank. Being certain that it was quite distinct from any described New Zealand species, I took it to be a new form, and it was not until recently, when working up the specimens, that I became convinced it was a true British species.
As I have only found it in the localities mentioned, I conclude some specimens must have been brought to the Botanic Gardens in cases of plants. The following is the technical description:—
Nostril on one side of the nose, in the lower hinder angle of the nasal shield, with one small posterior nasal. Lower eyelid opaque, scaly. Throat with a narrow cross-fold under the ears. Abdominal shields square. Temple scales small, with a larger central one. Pre-anal shield single, surrounded by smaller ones.
(Gray, Cat. Liz. Brit. Mus., p. 27.)
Ventral shields, 8-rowed; the temple covered with manysided shields, with a larger central shield; olive, back with a white-edged blackish streak on each side, and a central black streak; belly orange, black spotted.
According to Wood, many of the habits of this pretty little creature resemble those of our common brown lizard, or Mokomoko, so abundant on the hills and beaches around Wellington.
In England, it is found plentifully upon the banks and commons; it is extremely lively, and progresses by means of a series of sharp twists and springs. It captures flies and other insects with great dexterity. So quick are its movements, and so sharp its sight, that capture is far from easy. The colour is extremely variable, but generally the upper parts are olive-brown, with a dark brown line often interrupted along the middle of the back,
and a broader band along each side, with black spots and blotches interspersed; the under-parts are orange, spotted with black in the male, and olive-grey in the female. The length is about 6 inches.
It is one of the reptiles that produce living young, the eggs being hatched just before the young lizards are born. The usual plan adopted by reptiles is to lay the eggs in some spot where the sun's rays are able to warm them. But the Scaly Lizard is in the habit of lying on a sunny bank before the young ones are born, apparently for the purpose of gaining sufficient heat to hatch the eggs, a process which is much aided by the extreme thinness of the membrane covering them.