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Giant and long-lived? Age structure in Macroscincus coctei, an extinct skink from Cape Verde

Summary: Giant and long-lived? Age structure in Macroscincus coctei,
an extinct skink from Cape Verde
Franco Andreone1
, Fabio M. Guarino2
1 Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, Sezione di Zoologia, Via G. Giolitti, 36, 10123 Torino, Italy
e-mail: fabio.andreone@libero.it
2 Dipartimento di Biologia Evolutiva e Comparata, UniversitÓ di Napoli "Federico II", Via Mezzocannone, 8,
80134 Napoli, Italy
e-mail: fabio.guarino@unina.it
Abstract. The age structure of the extinct giant Cape Verde skink Macroscincus coctei was studied using
skeletochronology applied to 11 preserved males, 15 females, and one juvenile, collected at the end of the 19th
century. Counts of lines of arrested growth (LAGs) indicated that in this species -- which lived on islets with
extreme natural conditions (e.g., hard aridity, lack of rainfall) -- the maximum life span was estimated as 16
years for males and 12 years for females; the single juvenile was 4 years old. Although the sexes had similar mean
ages, mean body length of males was signi cantly higher than that of females (283 versus 255 mm). There was
no clear relationship between body length and estimated age, although the largest males were also the oldest. The
analysis of LAGs revealed a sexual difference in growth rates, males reaching greater size earlier than females.
Organisms living in isolated environments, such as oceanic islands, often exhibit extreme
ecological adaptations. For instance, many reptiles are characterised by peculiar and


Source: Andreone, Franco - Zoology Department, Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali di Torino


Collections: Biology and Medicine; Environmental Sciences and Ecology