The Little Brown Skink (Scincella lateralis), also known as the Ground Skink (which may refer to any Scincella species however), is a small species of skink found throughout much of the eastern half of the United States, and into northern Mexico.
This is one of the smallest reptiles in North America, with a length of 3 - 5.5 inches (7.5 - 14.5 cm). Its back is typically a coppery brown color with a white or yellow underside, and like most skinks has an elongated body and short legs. Transparent disks in the lower eyelids allow it to see with its eyes closed (Beane 2006, Palmer et al. 1995).
Range and habitat
The Ground Skink is found throughout much of the Eastern United States, from New Jersey, Ohio , and Kansas south to Texas and Florida, as well as into northern Mexico. It is absent from higher elevations in the Appalachian Mountains. It lives in a variety of habitats, including deciduous or mixed deciduous/coniferous forests, hedgerows, and the edges of streams and ponds. It does require a deep substrate, such as leaf litter.
This is a fossorial species, spending the majority of its time buried in leaf litter on the forest floor. Unlike other skinks, it seldom climbs trees. Its usual means of locomotion is to wriggle through the leaf litter with undulating movements (Lizards of Georgia). It may dive under water when pursued, although normally avoids wet areas. It is largely diurnal, but may be active at night as well. It hibernates during the coldest months, but may be active in almost any month of the year in North Carolina (Palmer et al. 1995). As befits a tiny lizard, the home range of an individual may be as small as 20 square meters (Natureserve). The diet of the Ground Skink consists of small insects, spiders, and other arthropoda, such as isopods. Ground Skinks are, in turn, preyed upon by snakes such as the Eastern Racer, Ringneck Snake, and Scarlet Kingsnake. Predatory birds of woodland habitats, such as the Barred Owl and the Red-shouldered Hawk, also feed upon Ground Skinks. Even the Eastern Bluebird has been observed feeding on this tiny lizard (Palmer et al.(2008,Robert Brooks 2009).
The Ground Skink lays small clutches of 1-6 (usually 2-3) eggs in moist soil, rotting logs, in falling logs or under rocks. Eggs are laid during the summer, March through August in the Southern United States. There may be more than one clutch per year. In contrast to Eumeces species, the female Ground Skink does not guard its eggs (Robert Brooks 2009). Eggs hatch in one to two months, and young are sexually mature at one year of age.
The Ground Skink is a widespread and common species in most of its range. It is of conservation concern only on the northern edge of its range and can be seen in grassland or forest.
- Lizards of Georgia and South Carolina--accessed 15 May 2006
- NC Herps--accessed 15 May 2006
- Natureserve--accessed 15 May 2006
- Terrapin Book--accessed 23 September 2007
- Jeff Beane (2006). Love Skinks. Wildlife in North Carolina 70: 14-19. ISSN 0043-549X.
- Bernard S. Martof et al. (1980). Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-4252-4.
- William M. Palmer, Alvin L. Braswell, Renaldo Kuhler (1995). Reptiles of North Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-2158-6.
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