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The fire skink (Lepidothyris fernandi), also known as the true fire skink or Togo fire skink, is a fairly large skink, a type of lizard. They are a beautiful species known for their bright and vivid coloration. Native to tropical forests in Western Africa, they live fifteen to twenty years. This species is a diurnal lizard that love to burrow and hide. They are relatively shy and reclusive, but may grow to become tame in captivity.
Historically, the fire skink has been placed in several different genera and was until recently placed in Riopa together with several skinks from southeast Asia. While these are superficially similar to the African fire skink, they are closer to some other Asian skinks, resulting in their move to Lygosoma. The fire skink is not closely related to other skinks and belongs to the genus Lepidothyris. However, a review of the taxonomy of the fire skink did reveal that it, as traditionally defined, actually consists of three separate species. This essentially limits true L. fernandi to tropical Western Africa, while population in Central and East Africa are L. hinkeli and L. striatus.
The fire skink is a fairly large species of skink, reaching up to 37 cm (15 in) in total length. The most unique aspect of the fire skink is its beautiful colors. Smooth, gold scales adorn the Fire Skinks back while red and black bars line its sides with a silver background. The males are, in general, larger and more colorful than females. They reach ten to fourteen inches on average and have sharp claws.
Fire skinks, unlike many other skinks, are an oviparous species. A female will generally lay a clutch of five to nine eggs after mating. Fire skink eggs take forty to fifty days to hatch when incubated at a temperature of 85 °F (29 °C).
This animal is an insectivore. They are very protective of their food. In the wild, the skinks feed on crickets, ants, moths and other small arthropods. Although they should be fed fruits and vegetables, they usually will not eat anything that is not moving or alive.[disputed ]
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Fire skink specimens kept in captivity should live in a vivarium or enclosure with a minimum size of 20 US gal (76 l; 17 imp gal) or larger (this is suitable to house a single skink or a couple). Horizontal space should dominate over vertical space, considering these lizards are mostly terrestrial and rarely climb; a secure lid should still be used to prevent escapes. A wide variety of substrates may be used, but plantation soil seems closest to their natural environment, it also facilitates digging and burrowing; at least 4 in (100 mm) of substrate should be provided for burrowing. Enclosure daytime temperatures should be between 80 to 85 °F (27 to 29 °C) with basking areas ranging from 90 °F (32 °C) to as high as 95 °F (35 °C); night temperature should be no lower than 75 °F (24 °C). Since this animal is diurnal, UVB/UVA radiation is required. Humidity should be provided by means of daily misting the substrate and through a water dish large enough for the skinks to bathe; water should be kept fresh and free of particulate matter. A fire skink’s diet is mostly insectivorous, and although some specimen enjoy fruits and vegetables, the main food provided should be a variety of crickets or worms (meal worms, silk worms, horned/goliath worms, butter worms, wax worms, etc.). Mature skinks can and will often eat small sized mice (commonly known as pinkies, fuzzies, hoppers). Captive specimens have been known to become quite tame when handled regularly; gloves are recommended when because the claws are rather sharp and can scratch skin, but these animals are not known to bite unless mishandled. As with other lizards, they will drop their tails if grabbed aggressively.
- Wagner, Bôhme, Pauwels & Schmitz (2009). A review of the African red–flanked skinks of the Lygosoma fernandi (BURTON, 1836) species group (Squamata: Scincidae) and the role of climate change in their speciation. Zootaxa 2050: 1-30.
- Reptile Database (5 February 2013). Lepidothyris fernandi.