‘Very cheeky’ new species of lizard potentially discovered by cat

A rare and potentially new species of skink has been discovered by a cat looking for a quick snack.

The cat dragged the lizard to its owners’ home in Taranaki, New Zealand. After Amanda Harris, the cat’s owner, placed the creature in a box to show it to experts, it was discovered to be a rare type of native skink known as a kakerakau, and perhaps even the first specimen of its species to have been found.

“This cat has a particular meow when it has something so when it brought it I saw it and it slid across the carpet and that’s what caught my eye so I immediately took it picked it up and put it in a box and contacted the Taranaki Regional Council to identify it,” Harris told Radio New Zealand (RNZ).

skink and cat
Archive footage of a blue-tongued skink in Jakarta, Indonesia (left) and a shocked cat (right). In New Zealand, a rare species of skink was dragged indoors by a cat and was discovered to be possibly the first specimen of its species to have been found.
iStock/Getty Images Plus

Skinks are a type of lizard, characterized by having significantly shorter legs than other lizard species. Around 1,500 species of skinks have been discovered so far.

“One of our biodiversity officers went over and said ‘oh this is interesting’ and sent me some pictures and I was super excited because it looked like something I had never seen before. and so I sent the pictures to some people who might know more and it came back as most likely a kakerakau skink,” Taranaki Regional Council senior ecologist Halema Jamieson told RNZ.

Jamieson said this was important because kakerakaus had previously only been seen in tiny scattered populations in the northern parts of New Zealand’s North Island.

“So it’s potentially one of those species or it could be something completely new,” she said.

While few kakerakau skinks have been found, very little is known about them. They are solar thermal, like to bask in the sun, and generally eat small invertebrates and berries.

This particular specimen was dark brown in color, with beige stripes running down its sides. According to Jamieson, the lizard was feisty and not afraid of being examined by scientists.

“He was poised and very cheeky looking at the camera and not afraid of me at all. Very fast, good at climbing and very good at jumping. Very alert and very aware of who I was and what I was doing , ” she said.

A sample was taken from the skink’s tail to confirm using DNA testing whether the skink was indeed a kakerakau or even a new species.

“Even though it’s not a brand new species and it’s the same one found at Bream Head, it’s still super exciting because it’s over 500km [310 miles] between the two known populations and given that it was not recognized until 2003, this is quite exciting. It’s basically a new species that has appeared on our doorstep,” Jamieson said.

Newsweek asked Jamieson for comment.

It is extremely rare to find native lizards in the wild on mainland New Zealand due to the high degree of predation by rodents and cats.

Luckily for this skink, however, the cat that dragged it out of the desert wasn’t exactly a bully.

“The cat that brought him in isn’t really a hunter, he’ll gather around but he won’t really eat anything so to speak, so he picked the right cat,” Harris said.

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