Geckos

Phelsuma

The most conspicuous reptile group of the Seychelles, Phelsuma is brightly colored, generally diurnal geckos, occurring in a wide range of habitats, from high mountain forests to banana and coconut plantations. There are clearly two species in the granitic islands Phelsuma sundbergi and Phelsuma astriata and another one present in the southern atolls (Phelsuma abbotti). A third form is sometimes recognized as a full species (Phelsuma longinsulae) and as many as many as three to four subspecies are sometimes recognized within P. astriata and P. sundbergi respectively. Phelsuma sundbergi and P. astriata are endemic to the Seychelles. However, P. abbotti from Aldabra and Assumption are closely related to the other P. abbotti subspecies from Northern Madagascar, resulting from an independent colonization of the Southern atolls.

Green Gecko
Phelsuma sundbergi sundbergi

Localities: Grand Soeur; Poivre; Praslin; Curieuse; La Digue. Easily distinguished from its co specific by being the largest species and predominantly green, with small, widespread red freckles. It is abundant and widespread across its distribution. The individuals from La Digue, Felicite, Cocos, Grande Soeur, Petite Soeur and Marianne Islands are often referred to as Phelsuma sundbergi ladiguensis. As they are not different from P. sundbergi sundbergi individuals in the field except for the geographic criteria, we do not consider it as a different subspecies for now.

Phelsuma sundbergi longinsulae

Localities: Fregate, Mahe, Cosmoledo, Cerf, Silhouette, and North Island. In Mahe, where it co-exists with P. astriata, P. sundbergi seems to be much more abundant, with P. astriata being much less conspicuous and predominantly found at higher altitudes in the canopy.

Phelsuma astriata

Localities: Mahe, Praslin, La Digue, Curieuse, Cerf, Cousine, Grand Soeur, Fregate, Silhouette, Aride, Astove, Alphonse. P. astriata from Fregate has been described as an intermediate form between P. a. astriata (Mahe group, Silhouette, Astove and Alphonse) and P. a. semicarinata (Praslin group, D’Arros and St. Joseph).

Phelsuma abbotti

Localities: Aldabra, Assumption. Traditionally two endemic subspecies are recognized as inhabiting the Southern atolls of the Seychelles: P. a. abbotti in Aldabra and P. a. sumptio in Assumption. Both seems to exist in high densities but are presently considered vulnerable due to their restricted range (Gerlach 2007). This species is usually observed on trunks, perching at low heights within dry, tropical forests.

Ailuronyx

The genus is endemic to the Seychelles. The previous Malagasy record of Ailuronyx trachygaster (1981) is probably erroneous (Bauer 1990). The species is believed to have a pre-quaternary age in the islands (Cheke, 1984) and their phylogenetic affinities are unknown. Currently they are placed basal to a big Afro-Malagasy clade of geckos. Today, they are common only in the palm forests on Praslin or rat-free islands like Aride, Cousine or Fregate. This may indicate that rats do have a major influence on their present distribution. Three species are recognized (Gerlach, 2002) although they can be difficult to distinguish. Of them, Ailuronyx trachygaster is rarely observed and known only from a few sightings from Praslin and Silhouette where it is usually found in the forest canopy. Another species is also recorded along the East coast of Mahe but no study has been conducted on its distribution and density.

Ailuronyx
Ailuronyx seychellensis

Found on the islands of Praslin, Cousine, Fregate, Silhouette and Aride and appears to be common

Ailuronyx tachyscopaeus

Found on the islands of Mahe, Cerf, Silhouette, Praslin, La Digue, Curieuse and Grande Soeur

Hemidactylus

At least two Hemidactylus species occur in Seychelles: Hemidactylus mercatorius (Sensu and Kluge 2001) and Hemidactylus frenatus. Records of a third species, Hemidactylus brookii exist for Desroches Island in the Amirantes but have not been confirmed by surveys. The relationship between the Seychelles populations of H. mercatorius with both East African and Malagasy specimens and with East African Hemidactylus mabouia was recently studied using molecular data (Rocha et al., in press)

Hemidactylus mercatorius

Found on Mahe, Assumption, Aldabra, Astove, and Cosmoledo. Abundant and widespread in the Southern atolls, there have also been some observations in the granitics. This species is closely related to the East African H. mabouia and while individuals found on Mahé may be introductions from the East African mainland or the Comoros, the Aldabra group harbors a distinct, apparently autochthonous clade. Nevertheless the taxonomy of this group remains controversial.

Hemidactylus frenatus

The species has been recorded on Mahe, Poivre and Desroches islands. This species is present throughout the Indian Ocean islands without any signs of geographic structure and its presence in the region is possibly recent.

Urocotyledon inexpectata

The species has been recorded only from the inner granitic islands of from Praslin, Mahe, La Digue, Curieuse, Grande Soeur, Fregate, Silhouette, Aride and Cousine. Particularly interesting from a biogeographic point of view, this species is rarely encountered and remains among the most poorly known gecko species. The few records of literature suggested that this was a rare species. However its rarity may be due to its particular habitat and ecology; mainly nocturnal, hardly emerging from shelters (usually very small cracks in granitic boulders) and moving only a short distance from them. In the Seychelles, it can frequently be found in granitic boulders around empty wasp nests in which it frequently lays its eggs. The species is rather inconspicuous and probably abundant, at least in many of the granitic islands, but it is sometimes difficult to detect them.

Gehyra mutilata

Localities: Mahe, Aldabra, Alphonse, Praslin, La Digue, Curieuse, Fregate, and Silhouette. This species is native to southern Asia. The species has recently spread across several Indian Ocean islands where it is mostly associated with housing and buildings. It has also been observed in more pristine habitat such as the Morne Seychellois on Mahé and co-existing with the endemic Urocotyledon inexpectata, suggesting that this species may be spreading fast into non-anthropogenic habitats.

Mabuya

The two endemic species of Seychelles, Mabuya wrightii and Mabuya seychellensis are apparently closely related to the African and Comorian species Mabuya maculilabris.

Mabuya
Mabuya wrightii

Localities: Sainte Pierre, Cousine, Cousin, Fregate, Aride, Recif, Mammelles and Bird islands. The species is easily recognizable from M. seychellensis by its bigger size and longer tail. This large, heavy bodied skink can reach maximum length of 138 mm. It is endemic to the granitic islands occurring only in rat-free areas, possibly due to pressure from this introduced predator. Higher population densities are reached on islands with large seabird colonies and may take advantage of higher food availability associated to them.

Mabuya Seychellensis

The species has been recorded from the islands of Mahe, Praslin, La Digue, Curieuse, Cerf, Grande Soeur, Fregate, Silhouette, Aride and North. This species is endemic and extremely widespread across all the granitic islands. It has also been introduced on some coralline islands such as Denis, Bird and some of Amirantes (Gerlach 2007). They are extremely common and can be found in virtually all kinds of habitat from woodland, plantations, gardens and housing from sea level to mid-altitudes.

Pamelaescincus

Pamelaescincus is a monospecific genus endemic to Seychelles. It is also a sister-taxa to another possibly monospecific genus from the Seychelles (Janetaescincus). Both seem to be basal to all remaining Afro-Malagasy families and are of significant biogeographic interest.

Pamelaescincus gardineri

The species has been recorded from La Digue, Mahe, Praslin, Grande Soeur, Fregate, Silhouette and Aride Islands within the inner granitic Seychelles. Its population’s statuses are unknown.

Janetaescincus

Janetaescincus braueri and Janetaescincus veseyfitzgeraldi are two endemic species that have been recorded from the inner granitic islands of Mahe, Praslin, La Digue, Curieuse, Fregate and Silhouette. Both species are very similar in body shape and limb size, and taxonomic differences are found in the arrangement of head scales and coloration. Both Janetaescincus and Pamelaescincus are burrowing skinks with reduced limbs, always found among leaf litter, in more humid and darker places. Janetaescincus is much smaller, longer, and slender, with a more elongate snout and it is usually darker than Pamelaescincus, which is generally a larger, stouter skink. In the field both species are easily recognized by their rapid, serpent form movement among the leaf litter.

Cryptoblepharus boutonii aldabrae

Localities: Assumption; Aldabra; Astove; Cosmoledo; Sainte Pierre. A small, slender skink, frequently found under trunks or rocks and has a distinct Indo- Pacific distribution with Western Indian Ocean populations that are a result of an ancient colonization from the Australian region (Rocha et al., 2006). The origins of the Seychelles populations remain unknown. Conversely to other islands in the Western Indian Ocean and the African coast, these skinks have been observed not only in the intertidal area but also in open habitats inland, where they are found on trunks and plant debris.

Calumma tigris

Localities: Mahé. All the other members of this genus occur in Madagascar, from where the ancestor of this species presumably originated. This species is very difficult to observe in the field; there is currently no data on its distribution and population size although it is observed within the higher mist forest of Mahe and Silhouette. Another species probably new to science has been described from the Vallée de Mai on Praslin. The species lives solitary life and has a diet of invertebrates.

Zonosaurus madagascariensis

This species is widespread in Madagascar but in Seychelles it inhabits only Cosmoledo. Ongoing genetic studies reveal no significant difference between Malagasy and Cosmoledo individuals and is hence probably either a native or introduced species.