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What Are the Different Types of Skinks?

By Cynde Gregory
Updated May 21, 2024
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In the lizard world, skinks are second in terms of species number only to the gecko. Experts classify between 600 and 1,200 species found all around the globe in a range of environments. They categorize skinks into several types.

Most species bear their young live. The Eumeces skink, however, does not. This type of skink is found in the Bermudas along the western coast of the United States and Latin America, in Asia’s southern geographic area, and in the north of Africa. Members of this genus are primarily tree dwelling, carnivorous, and hunt by day. In addition to laying eggs, they are differentiated from other kinds by a number of unique characteristics, which include a transparent second eyelid and scaly outer eyelids.

The Mabuya skink is not adapted for deep shade or desert habitats. They are widespread throughout Africa, tropical regions of the western hemisphere, and in some parts of Asia. Most of the 80 Mabuya types are tree dwellers, with delicate, long tails that can be released from the body to escape from predators. These lizards are typically brown, although some sport stripes or patches of color.

Skinks in the group Lygosoma are notable for their snakelike appearance. Those that have residual limbs do not use them for any known purpose. Other types of skinks in this category have lost the residual legs altogether and move by writhing their long, narrow bodies. Members of the Lygosoma family are primarily found in India.

There are three species of Scincus skink. All are sand dwellers who live in the African and Arabian deserts. Currently, the genus is composed of Scincus mitranus, or the Eastern skink, Scincus scincus, or the Sandfish skink, and the Scincus hemprichii, about which little is known. Members of the Scincus family share a common ancestor.

Little is known about skink evolution because there is no evidence in the fossil record. Scientists argue about the correct ways to classify them. For this reason, classifications are subject to change, particularly with those currently classified as Scincus.

A number of predators such as snakes, hawks, and raccoons feast on these reptiles. They are protected from these predators and others, like foxes, water birds, and opossums, by osteoderms. Osteoderms are bony protrusions tucked into the skin and beneath the scales.

Most skinks are also carnivorous. Their diets can include many types of beetles, hopping insects such as grasshoppers and crickets, and caterpillars. They eat centipedes, pill bugs, and snails as well. Larger skinks will occasionally feast on small rodents or fish. Skinks also consume fruit, leaves, and other plant-based foods.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many types of skinks are there?

There are over 1,500 species of skinks, making them one of the most diverse lizard families. They are classified under the scientific family Scincidae and are found in a variety of habitats worldwide, from deserts to rainforests. Each species has adapted uniquely to its environment, showcasing a vast array of colors, sizes, and behaviors.

What are the most common skink species?

The most common skink species include the Blue-tongued Skink, known for its distinctive blue tongue; the Five-lined Skink, easily identified by its bright stripes; and the Common Garden Skink, often found in suburban areas. These species are frequently encountered due to their adaptability to environments altered by humans.

Can skinks be found in urban areas?

Yes, skinks can be found in urban areas. The Common Garden Skink, for instance, thrives in city parks and gardens. Their adaptability allows them to exploit a range of urban microhabitats, and they play a role in controlling insect populations, making them beneficial to have around.

What do skinks typically eat?

Skinks are generally insectivorous, preying on a variety of insects and arthropods. Some larger species, like the Blue-tongued Skink, may also consume fruits, vegetables, and small vertebrates. Their diet is influenced by their size, habitat, and the availability of food sources in their environment.

Are skinks dangerous to humans?

Skinks are not dangerous to humans. They are non-venomous and typically shy, preferring to avoid confrontation. If threatened, a skink might bite in self-defense, but their bite is not harmful to humans. They are considered harmless and can even be beneficial by keeping insect populations in check.

How do skinks adapt to their environment?

Skinks have several adaptations that help them survive in diverse environments. Many have streamlined bodies and limbs that allow them to burrow or move through dense vegetation with ease. Some species, like the Sandfish Skink, have evolved to 'swim' through sand, while others, such as the Prehensile-tailed Skink, have tails capable of grasping branches in arboreal habitats.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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