Detailed species information from your search of the Atlas.
Scientific name:
Oligosoma polychroma
Common name:
northern grass skink
Naming authority:
(Patterson & Daugherty, 1990)
Bio status category:
Indigenous (Endemic)
IUCN threat status:
** Not Classified **
NZ threat classification:
Not Threatened

Refer to for NZ threat classification system details.

northern grass skink. Photo: D Sanderson.
northern grass skink


  • Sand dunes, grasslands, herbfields, wetlands, rocky areas including rock piles and scree, and scrub.
  • From the coast up to at least 1800 m above sea level.
  • Diurnal, avid sun-basker.
  • May over-winter in small groups.
  • May live on ground, among rocks or among low dense vegetation; 'striped' form favours grass habitats.


  • 'Striped' form: back light to dark straw-brown (rarely dark grey) with numerous smooth stripes, including dark brown mid-dorsal stripe continuous virtually to tip of intact tail; sides with broad dark brown stripe above (bordered by thin pale stripes) and below this grey-brown.
  • 'Speckled' form: back mid- to dark brown, with or without various stripes and with or without lighter and darker flecking or grey blotches, sides as for 'striped' form but often more flecked.
  • 'Striped' and 'speckled' forms have throat grey-brown, and belly grey-brown to bright yellow, usually unmarked.
  • 'Seaward Moss' form reddish- to very dark brown or dark olive-green all over, sides marginally darker than back, undersurface marginally paler, the only markings a dark mid-dorsal stripe and often a blackish snout.
  • Soles of feet yellow, dark brown or black.
  • Size up to 72 (occasionally to 79) mm from snout tip to vent.


  • From central North Island southwards to Stewart Island; on South Island mostly found east of Main Divide, western occurrence restricted to Nelson and northern Westland; on Stewart Island possibly restricted to lowland areas.
  • Often abundant.
  • 'Speckled' form occurs from Otago/Canterbury boundary northwards.
  • 'Seaward Moss' form confined to the Seaward Moss Conservation Area near Invercargill.
  • 'Striped' form ranges from Stewart Island to north Otago, on Stephens Island, and occurs sporadically in Marlborough and the North Island.


  • The scientific name means "many colours".
  • Likely to be given full species status.
  • Notes about NZ threat classification (Hitchmough, et al 2007): Unstriped colour morph from Seaward Moss wetland in Southland has declined markedly, possibly to extinction - cause unknown but possibly vegetation succession, normal striped morph remains common.
  • Notes about 2012-14 cycle of NZ threat classification for Reptiles: (Hitchmough, et al.
  • 2012): Declining trend documented at Rotoiti, stable population trend documented at Pukerua Bay; likely to be in decline, but possibly not at 10% over 3 generations, elsewhere on the mainland.
  • Secure on many islands.
  • Declining trends on mainland likely offset by increases on islands eradicated of mammals (and mainland sanctuaries).

Statistical information and distribution map

  Before 1988 Since 1988
Live Specimen 518 5488
Dead Specimen 1 13
Total 519 5501

  Live or dead specimen or shed skin
  Bone or fossil

northern grass skink Distribution Map.'
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