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Cat skink.jpg
Ristella travancorica from the Western Ghats.
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Scincidae
Genus: Ristella
Gray, 1839[1]

Ristella is a genus of skinks endemic to southern India, which are commonly known as cat skinks because of their retractile claws.

A Ristella from Dandeli in the Western Ghats.


Palatine and pterygoid bones in contact on the median line of the palate, which is toothless;palatine notch small, far behind, corresponding to the posterior notch of the tongue. Teeth conical. Eyelids well developed, scaly. Ear-opening distinct. Nostril pierced in a single nasal; no supranasals; prefrontals small or coalesced; frontoparietals and interparietal distinct. Limbs well developed, anterior with 4, posterior with 5 digits; claws completely retractile into a large compressed sheath formed of one large scale cleft beneath.[2]

Geographic range[edit]

Found in the hill-tracts of southern India.[2]

Key to species[edit]

  • A. A pair of small prefrontals; frontonasal forming a suture with frontal.
    • a. Ear-opening much larger than nostril; dorsal scales feebly bi- or tricarinate.
      • R. rurkii
    • b. Ear-opening not, or but slightly, larger than nostril; dorsal scales sharply bicarinate.
      • R. travancorica
  • B. Two azygous shields between rostral and frontal.
    • a. 22 to 24 scales round middle of body; adpressed limbs not meeting.
      • R. guentheri
    • b 26 scales round body; adpressed limbs meeting or overlapping.
      • R. beddomii [2]
The retractile claws which give Ristella the common name of cat skinks.


The following four species are recognized:[3]

Nota bene: A binomial authority in parentheses indicates that the species was originally described in a genus other than Ristella.


  1. ^ Dahms Tierleben. www.dahmstierleben.de.
  2. ^ a b c Boulenger GA. 1890. The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Batrachia. London: Secretary of State for India in Council. (Taylor and Francis, printers). xviii + 541 pp. (Genus Ristella, p. 214).
  3. ^ The Reptile Database. www.reptile-database.org.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gray JE. 1839. Catalogue of the Slender-tongued Saurians, with Descriptions of many new Genera and Species. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. [First Series] 2: 331-337. (Genus Ristella, p. 333).