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.