Also called Schneider's skink or a dotted skink, a berber skink is a type of heavy-bodied lizard that is native to northwestern Africa. Berber skinks have more well-developed legs than many other skink species, so their tendency to look like legged snakes instead of lizards is diminished. The scientific name of the berber skink is Eumeces schneideri.
Usually glossy, the average berber skink measures 14-16 inches (30-42 cm) long. These animals have thick bodies, smooth scales and short but substantial legs. Berber skinks have patterns of small yellowish spots along their backs. Their base color usually is a shade of gray or brown with lighter bellies, but they might change to a nearly white color when temperatures drop below 30 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-1 degree Celsius). These lizards can live for as long as 20 years.
Berber skinks burrow into the sand to make homes. They have scales over their ears, resembling combs, that help keep stray sand from clogging the ears when the skinks burrow. Generally found in sandy areas or scrub lands, these lizards also can be found in grassy or agricultural lands. As omnivores, they eat both plants and insects.
The males are particularly aggressive, often attacking each other and sometimes female skinks as well. They are most aggressive during mating season, fighting over the females. A little more than a month after breeding, the female berber skink lays three to 20 eggs, which she curls around to incubate for about five or six weeks before they hatch.
Although they are not popular pets, berber skinks are part of the pet trade. The majority of these lizards are wild-caught and are most often imported from Egypt, but captive-bred skinks are always preferable when shopping for a pet. Wild-caught skinks diminish the native populations and usually have unwanted parasites.
Pet berber skinks should be kept in a 30- to 50-gallon (about 113- to 190-liter) tank. Sand normally is used as a substrate, or ground cover, but peat moss works as well. Branches for climbing and hiding places should be provided in the tank, as well as a flat rock or log for basking. The lizards need full spectrum lighting, which should be on a 12-hour cycle. The tank's temperature should be maintained at 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit (24-26.6 degrees Celsius), with a basking area that has a temperature of 85-100 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4-37.8 degrees Celsius).