Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Research Highlights – Singapore Swamp Skink (New Species)

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Research Highlights – Singapore Swamp Skink (New Species)

Dorsal view of the holotype of Tytthoscincus temasekensis. Photo by Kelvin Lim.

For the past two decades, herpetologists had been unsure about the taxonomic status of a diminutive freshwater swamp-dwelling skink from Singapore. It had been known as ‘Sphenomorphus sp.’, and then asTytthoscincus cf. sibuensis’, as it resembles Tytthoscincus sibuensis from neighbouring Johor in Malaysia.

However, latest research published in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology (click here) provides evidence that the Singapore form was an undescribed species distinct from Tytthoscincus sibuensis.

The study by herpetologists Dr. L. Lee Grismer and Dr. Perry L. Wood Jr., with Mr. Kelvin Lim, and Mr. Lim Liang Jim, found that the population from Singapore is both morphologically and genetically different from other species of Tytthoscincus, in particular the two known swamp-dwelling species that it most resembles: Tytthoscincus sibuensis and Tytthoscincus panchorensis.

The Singapore skinks are named Tytthoscincus temasekensis after Temasek, an early name for Singapore. ‘Singapore swamp skink’ is suggested as the English vernacular name for this lizard. However, it is not endemic to Singapore. A couple of small skinks obtained from peat swamp forests in Perak, Malaysia, are also identified as T. temesekensis. This a small lizard; the largest known example is around 8 cm in total length.