Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
Phase VI

Meleotegi River, Ermera District

On the Meleotegi River our search was to begin in earnest but as soon as we exited the troopies we knew something was different, we could hear the river much louder than previously and it was clear it was carrying considerably more water than on any of our earlier visits. We wondered how this would affect our search since some of our best spots may now be underwater, or almost so.

When we got down to the river everyone took great care wading across but I had wanted to walk across the log bridge since I had watched Laca do it last time. Although it looked easy, the wood was slick and smooth but I made it across with just one hiccup in the middle. Much of our sites were underwater so we concentrated on the piles of rocks gathered by villagers from the river bed. Once established these microhabitats become very desirable residences for lizards and other critters but it is not simply a case of chucking the rocks from the pile, it was important to create a new pile as tidy as the original pile so that the human owner is not inconvenienced and the disturbed residents could return.

The Meleotegi River, one of our favourite herping locations


The Meleotegi River carrying more water than previously
Crossing the log bridge Rock piles are great skink locations

The rock piles contained some interesting invertebrates such as the second Timor species of scorpion, a Forest scorpion (Liocheles sp.) of family Scorpionidae rather than the more familiar brown Bark scorpion (Lychas mucronatus) from the Buthidae. The scorpionid is less dangerous and has large claws and small sting, as opposed to the small claws and large sting of the buthid. We also found several interesting centipedes of the family Scutigeridae, presumed less venomous than their larger relatives in the Scolopendridae but still unnerving. Scott remarked that they looked like they belonged on the ocean bed and that struck me as very true, either there or in a split rock as a fossil because they looked so primeval. The centipede especially gave me good reason and opportunity to again use my Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens but in photographing it, the centipede ran up my arm and over my shoulder, seeking sanctuary somewhere on my back.

Forest scorpion, Liocheles sp.
small sting
Forest scorpion, Liocheles sp.
large claws suggests less venomous
Scutigerid centipede, Scutigera sp. Scutigerid centipede, close-up
the 'fangs' are not proper fangs but rather modified legs so strictly they sting rather than bite

But we were really here for skinks, and skinks we found under rocks along the river bank, and especially in the rock piles. We found two species of Night skink (Eremiascincus sp.), including several specimens of an undescribed species we are currently calling Eremiacincus sp. 3, and a single specimen of a much larger species, our largest night skink of the survey, which we believe to the the Timor night skink (Eremiscincus timorensis).

Night skink, Eremiascincus sp. 3
Timor night skink, Eremiascincus timorensis


Nearby we collected a subadult Sun skink (Eutropis multifasciata), the largest skink of Timor and the species that evades us most frequently. This was our smallest specimen of the species to date until we found another 'Eremiascincus' under a rock, killed when the rock was stepped upon, which Sven identified as a juvenile Sun skink. We caught a single Rice-paddy frog (Fejervarya sp.).

Sun skink, Eutropis multifasciata
Sun skink, Eutropis multifasciata Rice-paddy frog, Fejervarya sp.

Zito returned from upstream with a Forest skink (Sphenomorphus sp.) captured on a fallen tree. Hinrich, David, Aaren and I returned with him to the spot, a steep slope high above the river with several felled trees rotting in the vegetation, and after much chasing of lizards and slipping and sliding we obtained a second specimen. We have previously collected what we believed to be two species of forest skinks on the Meleotegi (Sphenomorphus sp.3 and sp.4) and we believe on this occasion we caught one of each taxa. Both Zito and Laca sighted the new species of Snake-eyed skink (Cryptoblepharus sp.) on trunks but were unable to catch any, but we caught more Four-fingered skinks (Carlia sp.2).

Forest skink, Sphenomorphus sp.3
Forest skink, Sphenomorphus sp.4


Satisfied with our day's work on the Meleotegi River we returned to the vehicles and took some final herp team photos, of the two instructors (Hinrich and myself) with our troopies, and then of the whole team.

Hinrich and Mark with their respective Troopies

and the whole Phase VI team:
back (l-r): Hinrich Kaiser, Mark O'Shea
middle (l-r): Stephanie Hughes, Caitlin Sanchez, Zito Soares,
Agivedo "Laca" Ribeiro, Aaren Marsh, Sven Mecke
front (l-r): Scott Heacox, David Taylor, Melissa Carillo, Gloria Morales,
Justin Rader, Zach Brown

We then drove back to the Timor Lodge Hotel, a tired but contented band of fieldworkers.