Order Squamata ; Suborder Sauria
The island of Sri Lanka has an amazingly diverse and highly endemic Scincid assemblage.
However although the family Scincidae with 31 species accounts for a considerable
portion of the tetrapod reptiles in the country, only very little research has been
done on the taxonomy, ecology and distribution of these tetrapod reptiles. The lack
of clearly illustrated publications, the similarity in their overall colour patterns
and the complex identification characters have resulted in field identification
often being confused.
All species in Sri Lanka are either terrestrial or fossorial in habit except for
Dasia heliana, which is mostly sub-arboreal. Of the Sri Lankan Scincidae, the nine
relict taxa belonging to Acontianinae (genera Chalsidospes and Nessia) are the most
unique to the island as their closest relatives inhabit South Africa and Madagascar
but not the adjacent Indian sub-continent.
Genus Chalcides Laurenti, 1768
A single specimen from this genus was collected from an isolated low-land evergreen
rain forest patch in the Kalutara District (Karunarathna et al., 2008). It is a
wide spread species in the world and inhabits a variety of habitats ranging from
near-sea sand dunes to tropical rainforests.
Chalcides cf. ocellatus (Forskal, 1775); Ocellated Skink/Eyed Skink (E); Thith sikanala (S)
Genus Lygosoma (Gray,1839) [Riopa];
The endemic Lygosoma singha is a very rare species known from the North-east coast of the country, but Lygosoma punctatus is a common sub-fossorial species, particularly in the arid regions (though it occurs in all climatic zones of the country). They burrow swiftly into loose sand or decaying vegetation and the fragile, pink-coloured tail provides protection as it easily gains the attention of a predator and detaches. In more recent literature these species have being assigned to genus Lygosoma under the common name 'Supple skinks'
Lygosoma punctatus (Gmelin, 1799); Dotted garden skink/ Spotted supple skink (E); Tit hiraluhikanala (S)
Lygosoma singha (Taylor 1950); Taylor's skink/ Sri Lankan supple skink (E); Taylorge hiraluhikanala (S). Endemic
Genus Chalcidoseps Boulenger, 1887
The only member of this relict genus, Chalsidoceps thwaitesii has only four toes
in each limb, thus is commonly known as the Fourtoe Snake Skink. It is restricted
to the Knuckles massif in the central wet zone of the island and inhabits damp leaf
mould. It's a sub-fossorial species and feeds on insects.
- Chalcidoseps thwaitesii (Günther 1872); Fourtoe snakeskink (E); Chaturanguli sarpahikanala (S) Endemic
Genus Lankascincus Greer,1991
This relict genus now comprises ten species of small terrestrial and sub-fossorial
skinks, all endemic to the country. They are diurnal and are found in both lowlands
and highlands in a wide range of habitats including home gardens. Lankascincus is
a lygosomine scincid genus but as it has uncertain phylogenetic affinities with
the major lineage, molecular biology studies are proceeding. Sphenomorphus dorsicatenatus
is now considered to be a valid, distinct species under the genus Lankascincus.
Several new species have being discovered and await description.
- Lankascincus deignani (Taylor, 1950); Deignan's lankaskink (E); Deignange lakhiraluwa (S) Endemic
- Lankascincus deraniyagalae Greer, 1991; Deraniyagala's lankaskink (E); Deraniyagalage lakhiraluwa (S) Endemic
- Lankascincus dorsicatenatus (Deraniyagala, 1953); Catenated lankaskink (E); Damwal lakhiraluwa (S) Endemic
- Lankascincus fallax (Peters,1860); Common lankaskink (E) ; Sulaba lakhiraluwa (S) Endemic
- Lankascincus gansi Greer,1991; Gans's lankaskink (E); Gansge lakhiraluwa (S) Endemic
- Lankascincus greeri (Batuwita & Pethiyagoda); Greer's lankaskink (E) Endemic
- Lankascincus munindradasai Wickramasinghe et al, 2007; Munindradasa's lankaskink (E); Munindradasage lakhekanala (S) Endemic
- Lankascincus sripadensis Wickramasinghe et al, 2007; Sripada forest skink (E); Sripakandu duburu hekanala(S) Endemic
- Lankascincus taprobanensis (Kelaart,1854); Smooth lankaskink (E); Sumudu lakhiraluwa (S) Endemic
- Lankascincus taylori Greer 1991; Taylor's lankaskink (E); Telorge lakhiraluwa (S) Endemic
Genus Dasia Gray,1839
The only sub-arboreal skink in the country, Dasia halianus, is a rare skink distributed
in the low country dry zone. They inhabit tree holes in large trees. Other than
for the arboreal habits, it is also known to hide in sandy soil when disturbed.
Dasia feeds on caterpillars, insect larvae and insects.
- Dasia halianus (Haly & Nevil, 1887); Haly's treeskink (E); Helige rukhiraluwa (S)
Genus Eutropis (Fitzinger,1826) [Mabuya]
Mabuyan skinks, where all Sri Lankan species are now included in the genus Eutropis,
are the largest skinks in the island and most species reach ca. 300 mm. Sri Lanka
is home to seven species including four endemics (three at species level and the
other at subspecies level). They occupy a wide range of habitats and these terrestrial
skinks bask at midday on heated rocks, which is a great place to spot them. Members
of the genus contain three clear keels in each body scale, which can be used to
identify them. Few new species belonging to this genus have being discovered and
- Eutropis beddomii (Jerdon, 1870); Beddome's strip skink (E); Vairan hikanala (S)
- Eutropis bibronii (Gray,1838); Bibron's sand skink (E); Vali hikanala (S)
- Eutropis carinata lankae Deraniyagala,1953; Common skink (E); Sulaba hikanala (S) Endemic
- Eutropis floweri Taylor, 1950; Taylor's skink (E); Taylorge hikanala (S) Endemic
- Eutropis macularia (Blyth, 1853); Bronzegreen little skink (E); Pingu hikanala (S)
- Eutropis madaraszi Mechely, 1897; Spotted skink (E); Pulli hikanala (S) Endemic
- Eutropis tammanna Das, de Silva & Austin, 2008; Tammana skink (E) Endemic
Genus Nessia Gray, 1839
The genus Nessia is most unique and geographically relict to the island. Their closest
relatives inhabit South Africa and Madagascar but not the adjacent Indian sub-continent.
It is a specious skink genus comprising eight members. They are highly adapted for
a burrowing lifestyle by having wedge-shaped snouts, un-overlapped scales and highly
reduced limbs presumably reducing friction. Found in damp soils in the wet and intermediate
zones, especially where termites are common.
- Nessia bipes Smith, 1935; Smith's snakeskink (E); Smithge sarpahiraluva (S) Endemic
- Nessia burtonii Gray, 1839; Three-toe snakeskink (E); Triyanguli sarpahiraluva (S) Endemic
- Nessia deraniyagalai Taylor, 1950; Daraniyagala's snakeskink (E); Deraniyagalage sarpahiraluva (S) Endemic
- Nessia didactylus (Deraniyagala, 1934); Two-toe snakeskink (E); Deyanguli sarpahiraluva (S) Endemic
- Nessia hickanala Deraniyagala, 1940; Shark-head snakeskink (E); Morahis sarpahiraluva (S) Endemic
- Nessia layardi (Kelaart, 1853); Layard's snakeskink (E); Leyardge sarpahiraluva (S) Endemic
- Nessia monodactylus (Gray 1839); Toeless snakeskink (E); Ananguli sarpahiraluva (S) Endemic
- Nessia sarasinorum (Müller, 1889); Sarasin's snakeskink (E); Sarasinge sarpahiraluva (S) Endemic
Genus Sphenomorphus Fitzinger, 1843
The catch-all genus Sphenomorphus is yet another genus that is in urgent need of
a thorough review. Even till very recently, certain checklists (eg. De Silva, 2006)
included five species from Sri Lanka. However S. rufogulus and S. straitopunctatus
are now considered as synonyms of Lankascincus falax & L. taprobanensis, respectively.
S. dorsicatenatus is now considered to be a distinct Lankascincus species. I have
considered the record of Sphenomorphus dussumieri (Dussumier's litter skink) as
doubtful thus have not listed here. The condition and validity of the only remaining
species is also questionable as the type material are lost and as there are no subsequent
- Sphenomorphus megalops (Annadale,1906); Annandale's litter skink (E); Annandalege sigitihikanala (S) Endemic