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What Is a Crocodile Skink?

Angie Pollock
Angie Pollock

A crocodile skink is a small reptile that is native to Papua New Guinea and its surrounding islands, including the Solomon Islands and Admiralty Islands. Its name derives from the appearance of its body, which resembles a miniature crocodile. Part of the scincidae family, there are eight recognized species of crocodile skinks, including Tribolonotus annectens, T. blanchardi, T. brongersmai, T. gracilis and T. novaeguineae. The others are T. ponceleti, T. pseudoponceleti and T. schmidti.

Two of the more popular species that are kept as exotic pets, T. gracilis — commonly referred to as the orange-eyed or red-eyed crocodile skink — and T. novaeguineae, are native to mainland New Guinea. Their color ranges from dark brown to reddish brown, depending on their age. Along their back are spiny protrusions or scales, which contribute to the “crocodile” part of their name. The red- or orange-eyed crocodile skink also features a colorful orange marking that outlines the eyes.

Crickets are a diet staple for crocodile skinks.
Crickets are a diet staple for crocodile skinks.

Crocodile skinks of mainland New Guinea prefer the lush areas of the tropical rainforest. Their diet consists mainly of insects such as crickets and beetles. At adulthood, they can reach about 10 inches (25 cm) in length, depending on the species. The average length for an adult red-eyed crocodile skink is 8 inches (20 cm), with males generally larger than females. Crocodile skinks are hatched from eggs and are approximately 2 inches (5 cm) at birth.

The crocodile skink is native to Papua New Guinea.
The crocodile skink is native to Papua New Guinea.

These distinct lizards differ from most skinks. Many skink varieties do not display a pronounced neck, but the crocodile skink has a short neck area that extends into a triangular-shaped head, resembling that of a dinosaur. Another distinct characteristic of crocodile skinks from New Guinea is their ability to vocalize, which usually occurs when they feel threatened. Crocodile skinks also have characteristics that are similar to those of other skinks, such as the ability to detach part of the tail, which will regenerate over time.

With the exception of the T. gracilis and T. novaeguineae, these types of skinks are relatively unknown outside of their native homeland. The T. ponceleti, T. blanchardi, T. schmidti and T. pseudoponceleti are native to the Solomon Islands. The T. annectens, also known as the Zweifel’s helmet skink, roams parts of New Britain and Bismarck Archipelago. The T. brongersmai, or Brongersma’s helmet skink, also is found in Bismarck Archipelago as well as the Admiralty Islands.

The environment in which each of these crocodile skink breeds resides varies from tropical lowlands to mountainous regions, but they all prefer a moist habitat located near a source of fresh water. Crocodile skinks are fairly docile, which has made them a popular skink species to keep as pets. With few natural predators in the wild, the average lifespan of these reptiles is about 10 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a crocodile skink and where can it be found?

A crocodile skink is a species of skink that is known for its distinctive crocodile-like appearance, including ridged scales and a robust body. Native to the tropical forests of New Guinea and parts of Northern Australia, these reptiles are often found in moist environments near streams or in leaf litter.

How does the crocodile skink behave in the wild?

In the wild, crocodile skinks are reclusive and nocturnal, spending much of their time hidden under foliage or within crevices. They are known for their unique defensive behavior, which includes freezing and playing dead when threatened. Their secretive nature makes them less commonly observed than other reptiles.

What do crocodile skinks eat?

Crocodile skinks are insectivorous, primarily feeding on a variety of invertebrates such as crickets, worms, and other small insects. In captivity, their diet can be supplemented with commercially available insect prey, which should be dusted with calcium and vitamin supplements to ensure proper nutrition.

Are crocodile skinks endangered?

While crocodile skinks are not currently listed as endangered, their populations are affected by habitat destruction and the pet trade. Conservation efforts are important to monitor and protect their natural habitats to ensure their survival. Responsible pet ownership and breeding practices can also help reduce pressure on wild populations.

Can crocodile skinks be kept as pets?

Yes, crocodile skinks can be kept as pets, but they require specific care to thrive in captivity. This includes maintaining a humid environment, providing hiding spots, and ensuring a proper diet. Potential owners should research and prepare to meet these needs before acquiring a crocodile skink to ensure the well-being of the animal.

What is the lifespan of a crocodile skink?

Crocodile skinks can live for 5 to 10 years in the wild, and with proper care, they may live even longer in captivity. Their lifespan is influenced by factors such as diet, environmental conditions, and overall health. Regular veterinary check-ups can help identify and treat any health issues that may arise.

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    • Crickets are a diet staple for crocodile skinks.
      By: viter
      Crickets are a diet staple for crocodile skinks.
    • The crocodile skink is native to Papua New Guinea.
      By: PinkBlue
      The crocodile skink is native to Papua New Guinea.