Southern Coal Skink

Media
photo of juvenile southern coal skink
Scientific Name
Plestiodon anthracinus pluvialis
Family
Scincidae (skinks) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)
Description

The southern coal skink is secretive and few people know about it. This lizard is small, shiny, and brownish tan, with broad, dark stripes down the sides. The general color is tan, brown, or olive brown. The stripe on the side can be brown or black, is bordered by a thin light line above and below, and is 2–4 scales wide. There are no light stripes on the head. During the breeding season, adult males have dark orange on the sides of the head. Hatchlings are black with faint lines running down the back and sides.

Size

Length: 5 to 6 inches (average).

Where To Find
Southern Coal Skink Distribution Map

Restricted to the southern half of the state.

Few people know about this shy lizard. It is active on sunny days but quickly takes shelter in dead leaves or under rocks or logs when approached. It is active from late March to mid-September. Occurs in forests near streams, rivers, or sloughs. Also found in rocky, open glades. Seems to prefer open, damp, rock-strewn woods where it takes shelter under logs, bark, leaf litter, or rocks.

Eats a variety of small insects and spiders.

Life Cycle

Not much is known about the courtship and mating of this species in our state. Generally, they lay 7-11 eggs in June or early July, and the female remains with the eggs until they hatch.

Skinks are among many reptiles that easily shed their tails and regrow new ones. This self-amputation is called autotomy. Scientists studying the molecular and cellular workings of tail regeneration in lizards may one day help humans overcome spinal cord injuries.

Like most other lizards, this species preys on insects and other small animals and therefore helps maintain their numbers in a natural balance. It is preyed upon by larger predators, including snakes and many mammals and birds.

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About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri
Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.