Fossil Lizards from the Late Quaternary of 'Eua, Tonga

Pregill, Gregory K.
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University of Hawaii Press
The lizard fauna of Polynesia consists mainly of skinks and geckos that are believed to have reached many of the islands by way of human assistance beginning with the early Polynesian voyagers. Documenting the natural versus human-assisted origins of lizards in the Pacific would be greatly enhanced by a fossil record, but that record for lizards has been limited to a few archaeological and noncultural sites that postdate human arrival. This study reports fossil remains of eight, possibly nine, species of lizards screened from cave sediments on 'Eua, Tonga. One of these deposits is precultural, the deepest layers of which were excavated from below a calcite lens dated at ca. 60,000 to 80,000 yr B.P. Fossils from the precultural strata include a gecko referred to Perochirus sp., a genus known today no nearer than Vanuatu; a skink representing either an undescribed species of Emoia or Emoia trossula Brown & Gibbons; and remains of the widespread Emoia cyanura (Lesson). A single bone of an unidentified large (> 150mm snout-vent length) skink (cf. Emoia, Eugongylus) was recovered from deposits of post-human arrival age, but no such large skinks are currently known from the island. Additional cave sites yielded essentially contemporaneous remains of species extant on 'Eua: Gehyra oceanica (Lesson), Lepidodactylus cf. lugubris (Dumeril & Bibron), Nactus pelagicus (Girard), Cryptoblepharus poecilopleurus (Wiegmann), and Lipinia noctua (Lesson). No fossil evidence was found of the Crested Iguana, Brachylophus fasciatus (Brongniart), whose presence on 'Eua never has been verified by specimens.
Pregill GK. 1993. Fossil lizards from the Late Quaternary of 'Eua, Tonga. Pac Sci 47(2): 101-114.
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