|The extinct Cape Verde Giant Skink|
Macroscincus coctei, also called the Cape Verde Giant Skink, Lagarto, or Cocteau's Skink, is a reptile that was at one time known to inhabit the islets of Branco and Raso in the Cape Verde islands of the Atlantic Ocean, rendered deserts by human-caused habitat destruction. No Macroscincus coctei has been observed since early in the 20th century.
Decline of population
Causes cited for their decline include over hunting for food and use for 'skink oil' by natives of neighboring islands and prolonged drought. At one time, starving convicts were marooned in the Cape Verde archipelago and ate the extant population of Macroscincus coctei. An explorer, Leonardo Fea, brought back several specimens which are now housed in Italy. This constitutes the extant specimens of Macroscincus coctei. Subsequent explorers such as Sheliech, Andreone and Pather, have failed to find living Macroscincus. In the early 20th century, German herpetologists tried to captive-breed this species to no avail.
Macroscincus are largely herbivorous, but whether out of necessity with deteriorating conditions or from opportunistic advantage, occasionally became more carnivorous as individuals would occasionally eat the young from nesting shore birds. German herpetologists have noted Macroscincus consuming birds in captivity in the early 20th century.
One interesting aspect of this species is that it possessed a transparent lower eyelid; possibly to spot predators from below.
There appears from pickled specimens that this species had a 'belly button' slit indicating viviparism. However, there are reports that indicate this species also was an egg layer.
It has been found through mitochrondrial DNA sequences (Carranza, Arnold, et al. 2001 Biological Sciences) that Macroscincus coctei was most closely related to the Mabuya genus of the Scincidae and may have constituted a clade.
Macroscincus coctei had a SENI value of .13 (Schnirel, 2004 Polyphemos). As such, it was a low arboreal skink that was borderline enough to adapt to the semi-desert like conditions created when the Cape Verde islands were denuded by humans and domesticated animals centuries ago.
- "News - World’s oldest and largest species in decline – IUCN Red List". Iucnredlist.org. 2013-07-02. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
- "Macroscincus coctei (Cape Verde Giant Skink, Cocteau's Skink)". Iucnredlist.org. 1996-08-01. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
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