5 Mysterious Mythologized Reptiles of Fiji


Turtles of Fiji

Hawksbill Turtle
Eretmochelys imbricataRelatively common24 - 45 Inches30 - 50 YearsCarnivore - Eat mollusks, marine algae, crustaceans, sea urchins, fish, and jellyfishCoastlines where the sponges they like to feed and sandy nesting sites.

The life span of a Sea turtle

Life Cycle of a Turtle scaled e1675313558857

Fun Fact about the sex of the Hatchlings

The temperature of the sand, around the eggs, determines the sex of the hatchlings. While warm sand produces mostly females, cool sand temperatures produce mainly male hatchlings. Females lay more than one clutch in a season and they usually come back to the same beach to lay. Turtles lay eggs every 2-3 years.

Anatomy of a Sea turtle

Anatomy of a Hawksbill Sea turtle (Reptiles)
Anatomy of a Hawksbill Sea turtle
ASkull - Made up of fused bones, functions to protect the brain and sensory structures
CBeak - Modification of the jaw used for scraping, crushing, tearing, or biting
DMouth - Toothless, although, green turtles have a serrated beak
EClaw - Used for holding onto the female during mating
FFront Flipper - Functions both as a wing (lift) and propeller (thrust)
GPlastron - The ventral, or lower side, of the shell.  Joined to the carapace by cartilage
HRear Flippers - Function as a rudder for steering and nest digging
ICloaca - Located beneath the tail
JScute - Single Keratinous scales overlaying the bony carapace.  The number and arrangement of the scutes help to identify one species of sea turtle from another.
KCarapace - Dorsal, or upper side of the shell.  In all but the leatherback, the backbone and ribs of the turtle are fused to form the carapace.

Sea Turtle Identification Chart

Sea Turtle Identification Diagram
Sea Turtle Identification Diagram (Courtesy of Seaturtle.org)

Snakes of Fiji

Snakes in Fiji scaled

Banded Sea Krait -Laticauda colubrinaFijiVenomous - no substantive danger to humansFemales are 50 inches (128 cm) long, while males are 30 inches (75 cm) long.Black vertical stripes (bands) that streak their white bodiesSpecialized at hunting eelsSea kraits spend more time on land than in the sea.
Pacific Tree Boa - Candoia bibroniViti Levu Islands and Rotuma.Non-VenomousMedium body size with a maximum length of 4 feetA variety of colors that range from brown to red-brown. Some have a stripe pattern while others lack stripped skinFeeds on a variety of organisms that range from birds (with its ability to climb trees), mammals (rats, bats and moles). and certain reptiles such as lizards and frogsHumid environments to escape heat. It also lives along riverbanks.(Adapted for climbing trees)
Yellow bellied Sea Snake - Pelamis platurus
FijiVenomous - no substantive danger to humansLength - 230mmDistinctive bicolor pattern with a yellow underbelly and brown backEats only small fishFully adapted to living their whole lives at sea
Fiji Burrowing Snake - Ogmodon vitianusExclusively found on Viti Levu - Wainikoroiluva Valley, Sigatoka Valley, Naitasiri and the Monasavu areaVenomous - has such small venom glands that it seems to be of no danger to humansAdult length seldom exceeds 16 inches (40 centimeters) - 30 (SVL)Brown fading to a lighter brown along the sides. The scales on the crown are large and may have dark edges. Young snakes may have dark bands.Earthworms and other small soft-bodied creatures

Fun Fact 1 – Yellow-bellied Sea Snake

Like other reptiles, sea snakes need to drink water to survive.  A new study suggests that yellow-bellied sea snakes can rehydrate at sea by drinking rainwater that collects on the ocean surface.  As rain falls, the uppermost part of the water’s surface is diluted, creating a temporary freshwater layer that doesn’t immediately mix with salt water, allowing them to rehydrate after sometimes many weeks without water.

Fun Fact 2 –  Banded Sea Kraits

Banded sea kraits can spend an average of 15 to 30 minutes underwater before returning to the surface for air.  Now that is a true free dive…

Iguana of Fiji

Fiji Crested Iguana.

Fiji Crested IguanaBrachylophus vitiensisEndemic - Monuriki island in the Mamanucas, Macuata island in Ra, Viti Levu and Yadua Taba in Bua, Vanua LevuHatchlings range from 83 mm to 223 mm in adults (SVL)Body is pale green (with some black speckles) and is overlain with narrow white stripes with black-edges running across the body.Restricted to dry forest areas.Diurnal and Herbivorous feeding on leaves, seeds and flowers of plants.
Gau Banded IguanaBrachylophus gauRestricted to Islands of GauMale Fiji banded iguanas are emerald green with broad, light-coloured bands. The females are solid green with occasional spotting.

What is a Crested Iguana?

The crested iguana is a large arboreal lizard whose SVL ranges from 83 mm (hatchlings) to 223 mm (adults). The background colour of its body is pale green (with some black speckles) and is overlain with narrow white stripes with black edges running across the body. Male crested iguanas have large femoral pores making it easy to tell them apart from females. The crested iguana differs from the more widespread banded iguana (B. fasciatus) in being larger and having narrower white (black-edged) stripes. (Nature Fiji, 2008), and Fiji crested iguana or Fijian crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis) is a critically endangered species of iguana native to some of the northwestern islands of the Fijian archipelago, where it is found in dry forest on Yaduataba (west of Vanua Levu), Yadua, Macuata, Yaquaga, Devuilau (Goat Island), Malolo, Monu, and Monuriki. (“Fiji crested iguana”, 2020)

Iguanas Anatomy

Iguanas Anatomy

ANuchal CrestECaudal CrestILegMEye
BTympanum (Ear)FTailJToeNMouth
DDorsal CrestHClawLSubtympanic ShieldPEye Ridge

Endemic Geckos of Fiji

Fijian Geckos Halmahera Gecko Gehyra marginata scaled

Endemic Geckos of Fiji
Indo-pacific Tree GeckoHemiphyllodactylus typus
Pacific Slender toed Gecko
Nactus pelagicus
Mannsm GeckoLepidodactylus manni
Voracious Four clawed GeckoEndemic Geckos of Fiji
Giant Forest GeckoGehyra vorax

6 Characteristics of a Gecko

  1. Anatomy – Geckos are mostly small, soft-skinned with a short stout body, a large head, and typically well-developed limbs.
  2. Diet – Most geckos are nocturnal, which means they are active at night and consume insects, fruits, and flower nectar.
  3. Voice – Most geckos make noises from a feeble click or chirp to a shrill cackle or bark.
  4. Adhesive Pads – Most geckos have feet modified for climbing. The pads of their long toes are covered with small plates that are in turn covered with numerous microscopic hooks that cling to small surface irregularities, enabling geckos to climb smooth and vertical surfaces and even to run across smooth ceilings.
  5. Walk on Water – In their efforts to avoid predators, geckos appear to be fast enough to sprint across the surface of a water body without sinking.
  6. Tail regeneratable and Storehouse – A gecko’s tail serves in many species as a storehouse of fat upon which the animal can draw during unfavorable conditions.  The tail may also be extremely fragile and if detached is quickly regenerated in its original shape.


Fijian Skinks

Fiji Barred Tree Skink and Skink Emoia

Scientific – Phlum Chordata, Class Reptilia, Order Squamata, Suborder – Sauria, Family Scinicidae

Brown tailed Copper stripped Skink Emoia-cyanuraNative - Across FijiAdults are 39-56mm (SVL) or up to 120mm (in total length)Brightly colored with black and copper longitudinal stripes on their head and back. Juveniles have a turquoise colored tail which later changes to copper-brown in adults. Their ventral surface is ivory white to a muddy copper white.Islands greater than 1 hectare, it is found in dense areas of vegetation, in open areas, on tree hunks and on bushes.
Pacific Blue-tailed Skink Emoia-caeruleocaudaNative - Taveuni and Viti LevuAdults can reach up to 65mm (SVL)Alternating dark and light stripes along the length of its body and their tail is either blue or gray.Inhabits coastal areas. It spends most of its time on the coastal ground. But will explore the base of the tree trunks in search of food prey.
Pacific Black Skink Emoia nigraNative - Taveuni, Lomaiviti Group and the Northern Lau GroupAdults are 112mm (SVL) or up to 250mm (in total length)Uniformly colored black skink. Although their ventral surfaces and their tail can be a dark brownThick vegetation or on logs and rocks in the forest
Pygmy Snake eyed Skink Cryptoblepharus eximiusEndemic - Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Kadavu, Lomaiviti and Lau Group of IslandsAdults do not grow much more than 40 mm (SVL)They are diurnal and have a broad colored dorsal stripe (copper brown) on the head which fades to grey on the neck. They have four alternating black and silver dorsal stripes running from the eye to midbody. Their ventral surface is grey-oliveCoastal locations - They can be seen basking on rocks, on raised vegetation and scrub, and in open areas of habitat

There are 12 types of skink (Known generally as Mokosari) in Fiji, above we have started our discovery of these amazing little reptiles with the four most common, which you would most likely discover on your travels, with some common characteristics found between the different types below,  we were pleasantly surprised to find they have a regenerative tail to help them escape predators…

6 Characteristics of the Skink

  1. Skinks are successful colonizers of the Pacific Islands and occur on most, if not all, islands of several hectares or larger.
  2. Skinks are slim lizards with smooth, shiny scales over their elongated cylindrical body. They have short necks and their legs are very small. Most skinks are striped but they may also be banded, spotted, or uniformly colored.
  3. Skinks are quite small lizards usually not more than 200mm in total length, although some giant skinks can be greater than 300mm. Their heads are conical and they have round pupils.
  4. Most species have slender tapering tails that are easily broken if caught by a predator but their tails can regenerate (autonomy). The loss of the tail does little harm to the skink as the caudal artery quickly closes to prevent excessive bleeding and the break does not occur between the tail bones (vertebrae).  Some skinks have brightly colored tails to attract predators away from their heads and body, especially in their juvenile phase. Females may retain their brightly colored tails but males will change to a more somber colour.  A new tail will regenerate but it will not be identical to the original because it is made up of fibrocartilaginous rods and nonsegmental muscle rather than skeletal vertebrae. Furthermore, the coloration of the scales is usually dull or altered indicating the animal has lost its original tail.
  5. The most common skinks are seen during the day on the ground either lying on elevated ground litter, on rock surfaces, near logs, or scuttling under the vegetation and debris. They can move very quickly after basking in the sun.
  6. The skinks in Fiji are insectivorous, although elsewhere some larger skinks are herbivorous.

What is the difference between a Gecko and a Skink?

Gecko or skink? Ever wondered if you're looking at a gecko or a skink? Here's a guide to help you tell the difference.
Image: Anna Yeoman

Differences in Habitat

Geckos are mainly arboreal, meaning they prefer to reside on trees. If they have access to suitable food and shelter, they will often stay on the same tree or group of trees for their entire lives.  Skinks, on the other hand, live on the ground and hide in small crevices provided by rocks, logs, and in urban areas piles of debris, such as tires and roof tiles. They can also be found in overgrown areas, such as unmown areas along streams.

Hawksbill turtle at Nadogo District's Historic Marine Protected Area & Turtle Sanctuary Declaration

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