“What kinds of skinks are there in Texas?”
There’s no question that skinks are one of the most misunderstood animals in Texas! Are they snakes, or lizards, or some sort of combination?
Interestingly, these creatures are considered lizards, but it’s easy to misidentify them as snakes. They have short limbs, move with a zig-zag pattern, and like to hide under debris just like snakes!
Today, you’ll learn the 8 kinds of skinks in Texas!
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#1. Great Plains Skink
- Plestiodon obsoletus
- Adults are up to 13 inches long.
- Coloring ranges from light gray or olive to tan, with darker brown markings.
- The tail and feet are usually pale yellow or orange, and the belly is often marked with salmon.
- Young individuals are black with an iridescent blue tail and gold spots on the head.
Great Plains Skinks in Texas are frequently found in prairie grassland with open, low-growing plants. However, they occasionally also live in woodland or semi-arid desert areas.
Great Plains Skinks are very aggressive if threatened!
They hide under rocks, shrubs, or logs but are very likely to bite if they are disturbed or handled. So, if you happen to find one, observe with caution!
In addition, they’re aggressive hunters and will eat insects, snails, spiders, and even other lizards.
#2. Many-Lined Skink
- Plestiodon multivirgatus
- Adults are up to 7.5 inches long.
- The tail is much longer than the body compared to other skinks: roughly 1 to 1.5 times as long.
- Light and dark stripes run the length of the body.
- During the breeding season, many males develop orange or red lips.
Many-Lined Skinks in Texas prefer areas with water or moist soil.
They live in various habitats in northwestern Texas, from mountain areas to vacant lots and even city dumps! Their primary food source is ant larvae and other insects.
Young Many-Lined Skinks have bright blue tails. A uniquely colored tail is a defensive strategy that helps attract predators away from the skink’s body! If a predator tries to bite or grab the skink, it can drop its tail and escape!
There are two subspecies of this skink.
- Northern Many-Lined Skink (P.m. multivirgatus) generally has more well-defined stripes and is almost always gray and black.
- Variable Skink (P.m. epipleurotus) comes in a variety of colors and patterns. The subspecies’ ranges don’t overlap, and some scientists consider them two separate species!
#3. Coal Skink
- Plestiodon anthracinus
- Adults are up to 7 inches long.
- Four light stripes run the length of the body and a portion of the tail.
- Juveniles are sometimes all black with no markings.
- During the breeding season, some males develop reddish blotches on the sides of the head.
Coal Skinks are one of the most secretive, shy skinks in Texas!
They are hard to find because they spend so much of their time under rocks, leaf litter, or fallen logs. Coal Skinks prefer moist, humid areas and live on hillsides with nearby streams.
If you spot a Coal Skink, you can identify it by the lack of a middle stripe on its back.
Two subspecies, the Northern Coal Skink (P.a. anthracinus) and the Southern Coal Skink (P.a. pluvialis), are scattered throughout the US.
#4. Common Five-Lined Skink
- Plestiodon fasciatus
- Adults are up to 8.75 inches long.
- 5 stripes are most apparent in hatchlings and fade as the skinks grow.
- Males have orange-red coloring on the jaw during the breeding season.
- Hatchlings are black with light stripes. The black coloring often fades to gray, and the lighter stripes darken.
Look for Common Five-Lined Skinks in eastern Texas in wooded areas near rotting stumps, outcrops of rock, and sometimes piles of boards or sawdust. Its diet consists of spiders, beetles, crickets, and other insects.
Females attend to their eggs throughout their incubation period.
They spend almost all their time defending and caring for the eggs until they hatch!
If you happen to come across a nest, you may notice the mother curled up on top of or around the eggs. She also rolls the eggs to maintain their humidity, moves them back to the nest if they become disturbed, and even eats eggs that aren’t viable!
#5. Broad-Headed Skink
- Plestiodon laticeps
- Adults are up to 12.75 inches long.
- Coloring in males is uniform brown or olive. Females often keep some form of stripes that are more apparent in hatchlings.
- The tail is gray in adults and blue in young.
- Males develop orange-red coloring on the jawline during the breeding season. Sometimes the entire head turns bright orange.
Look for Broad-Headed Skinks in eastern Texas in swamp forests, woodlands, or vacant lots with debris.
You can easily recognize this species by its triangular head!
Broad-Headed Skinks are one of the few skink species at home among trees! They will often climb trees for cover and protection from predators. They forage on the ground for their food, searching leaf litter and debris for insects and spiders.
#6. Southern Prairie Skink
- Plestiodon obtusirostris
- Adults are up to 8 inches long.
- Coloring is brown to tan with a dark stripe bordered in white along each side.
- The stripes usually fade with age, and older, larger individuals may be almost uniformly brown.
- Hatchlings and young have blue tails.
The Southern Prairie Skink prefers streambeds for its habitat, and you can generally find them near clumps of prickly pear cactus. They are quick to hide from predators and eat small insects. Because of their skittish nature, it can be hard to find this species in the wild.
Some scientists consider the Southern Prairie Skink and the Northern Prairie Skink to be subspecies. But their ranges don’t overlap, and they’re different enough in appearance that full species status is generally given to both.
#7. Little Brown Skink
- Scincella lateralis
- Adults are up to 5.75 inches long.
- Coloring is golden-brown to almost black with dark stripes that usually blend in with the main body color.
- The belly is white, sometimes with a yellowish cast.
In eastern Texas, they are often called Ground Skinks because they live on the forest floor.
They can also be found in gardens and urban areas with lots of debris or litter to hide in.
Believe it or not, Little Brown Snakes have the interesting talent of seeing with their eyes closed! But honestly, it just looks like their eyes are closed. Technically, they have a window in their lower eyelids that allows them to see at all times.
That’s a very handy adaptation for one of the smallest reptiles in Texas. The Little Brown Skink has many predators, including snakes, larger lizards, and birds of prey. When they try to sneak up on a “sleeping” Little Brown Skink, often the skink can run away using the element of surprise!
#8. Four-Lined Skink
- Plestiodon tetragrammus
- Adults are up to 8 inches long.
- Four light stripes run the length of the back but stop before the tail.
- Coloring is light brown in adults. Juveniles are black with an orange head.
- Males have reddish blotches on the sides of their throats.
The Four-Lined Skink is ONLY found in Texas.
It prefers brush and grasslands with sandy soil and is usually found under debris piles.
There are two subspecies of Four-Lined Skinks in Texas.
- The Long-Lined Skink (P.t. tetragrammus) is dark gray or brown with broad, dark bands on the sides.
- The Short-Lined Skink (P.t. brevilineatus) is brown to olive green, and its light stripes stop at the shoulders.
Do you need additional help identifying skinks?
Try this field guide!
Which of these skinks have you seen in Texas?
Leave a comment below!