The name refers to the Otago province. The Otago skink, although first recognised late last century, was not formally named until 1955 (Whitaker & Loh 1995). Until 1977 was frequently included in O. grande, although since 1955 had been partially separated as a subspecies (McCann 1955). Redescribed by Patterson (1997) as a full species..
The colour pattern is unique to the species. The very high midbody scale row count overlaps with only three other New Zealand species, O. grande, O. fallai and O. waimatense (Patterson 1997).
A large, robust skink with a flattened appearance (SVL up to 130mm, 298mm total length). Dorsal surfaces yellow or dark brown with heavy black flecking or solid black. Distinctive pattern of large cream, pale yellow or pale green blotches edged with black across dorsal and lateral surfaces and along tail, interspesed with smaller splotches and speckling of similar colour. Ventral surfaces marble grey, white or yellowish with distinctive black mottling. Juveniles are almost jet black, with small dorsal and lateral yellow patches. Minor variation in patterning occurs in some individuals during their first year (Collen 2007) and during growth they become heavily built and more lightly coloured (Towns 1985).
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