The Ecology of New Zealand’s Lizards



The current distribution of New Zealand lizards has been influenced by past geological events, habitat destruction and introduced predators. Perhaps as a reflection of long isolation, and at least 20 million years of climatic and geological change, the proportion of lizard species that are habitat generalists is relatively low, and high levels of sympatry exist in many environments. Variable strategies in resource partitioning may enable the high sympatry among lizard species, enabling division of resources spatially, temporally and/or trophically. However, overlap in resource use exists, such as honeydew sources, indicating potential competition among and within species. Compared to lizards elsewhere, the New Zealand lizard fauna has some unusual traits, with many species that reside in relatively cool environments, including some that appear to be alpine specialists, some skinks being active at night and Naultinus geckos being day active (geckos are globally dominated by nocturnal species). The lizards of New Zealand are highly opportunistic, responding to fluctuating abundance and availability of dietary items throughout the year. Both taxa feed primarily on arthropods, with plant-derived material, other reptiles and carrion also present in the diet; skinks also eat other invertebrates. Both the skinks and geckos of New Zealand disperse seeds and are probably pollinators for some plants. Some New Zealand lizards form aggregations and/or family groupings, and parental care may also be present. Some species use habitat differently in the presence of predators, which include native and introduced birds and invertebrates, native reptiles and introduced amphibians and reptiles.


Behaviour Diet Gecko Habitat use Mating behaviour Pollination Predation Seed dispersal Skink 



We are grateful to Ben Bell, Anna Carter, Sarah Herbert, Zoë Lennon, Sue Keall, Riki Mules, Nicky Nelson, Stephanie Price, Patty Ramirez and Chris Woolley, for comments on the draft chapter. We also thank KC (Kevin) Burns, Alison Cree, Rod Hitchmough and Marieke Lettink for useful discussions and thank Alison Cree and Riki Mules for their personal communications. Finally, we are very grateful to the following for permission to use their photographs: Marieke Lettink, Riki Mules, Rod Morris, James Reardon and the New Zealand Department of Conservation Grand and Otago Skink Recovery Programme.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration EcologyVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  3. 3.Department of ConservationAuckland New Zealand and Institute for Applied Ecology New Zealand, Auckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand
  4. 4.Bioresearches Group LtdAucklandNew Zealand

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