Lizards of South Carolina

South Carolina is home to 14 species of lizards representing a wide diversity of physical characteristics and habitat selection. 11 of these species are native, while 3 species have been introduced to the area. Scroll down to find a quick description of these lizards and click on their account or image to open a more in-depth description.   

Anguidae - Glass Lizards

This family is comprised of a wide diversity of lizards found exclusively in the northern hemisphere. In South Carolina the only members are referred to as Glass Lizards. They are all in the genus Ophisaurus which translates to “snake-like” on account of having no legs and superficially resembling snakes. However they are easily distinguished from having external ear openings and moveable eyelids.  

Slender Glass Lizard
(Ophisaurus attenuatus)

The Slender Glass Lizard is a secretive lizard and most frequently occurs in dry open forests and grasslands. It is tan to greenish in coloration and has a prominent mid dorsal stripe extending down the length of the body. It has a series of longitudinal strips extending down the side of the body and, unlike other glass lizards, several of these stripes occur beneath the lateral groove.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Island Glass Lizard
(Ophisaurus compressus)

This glass lizard is rare in South Carolina and is found along the coast. It is tan to yellowish brown in coloration with some mottling on the sides of the head and neck. A single dark line extending down both sides of the body above the lateral fold is the best characteristic to distinguish from other glass lizards.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone

 

Mimic Glass Lizard
(Ophisaurus mimicus)

 The Mimic Glass Lizard is the smallest of the glass lizards in its range and is generally brown with a dark mid dorsal stripe extending down the length of the body. The sides of the body have three to four dark longitudinal stripes above the lateral groove, and no stripes below the lateral groove. It occurs mostly in open dry forests along the Coastal Plain. 

SC Distribution: Coastal Plains

Eastern Glass Lizard
(Ophisaurus ventralis)

This is the longest lizard in South Carolina and the most common glass lizard beneath the fall line. They have smooth scales and are tan to greenish in coloration. Small black spots occur along the body and there are often several vertical white bars just behind the head. 

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains

Dactyloidae - Anoles

The genus Anolis in the family Dactyloidae is the most species-rich genus of amniotes on earth. The majority of this diversity is found in the tropics, but South Carolina is home to two species: The native Green Anole (A. carolinensis) and the recently introduced Brown Anole (A. sagrei).

Green Anole
(Anolis carolinensis)

This medium sized lizard is one of the most common reptiles in the Southeastern United States. They can change in color from dark brown to vibrant green and may have a faint pattern going down their back. They are highly aboreal, but can be found on the ground or in the trees in almost any habitat. They certainly do not shy away from urban settings and are readily found climbing on the side of buildings. 

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge   

Brown Anole
(Anolis sagrei)

Introduced

As the name suggests, the Brown Anole is generally brown in coloration with variable patterning down the body. When extended the dewlap (or throat pouch) is orangish-red and outlined in yellow. Currently this lizard is infrequent in South Carolina, but populations are increasing as they hitch rides from Florida.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains

Gekkonidae - Geckos

Gekkonidae is the largest family of Geckos. Most members of this group lack eyelids, have enlarged toe-pads, and vocalize during social interactions. There is one member of this family found in South Carolina and is considered an introduced species. 

Mediterranean House Gecko
(Hemidactylus turcicus)

Introduced

This small lizard is found almost excusively around houses or buildings. They appear pale pink, almost translucent, with warty skin. They have a big head with large pupils and no eyelids. The tail is stout with several faintly dark rings and feet have large toe pads.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Phrynosomatidae - Spiny and Horned Lizards

This diverse group of lizards show a preference for arid environments and generally have spiny scale and are cryptic in coloration. 

Eastern Fence Lizard
(Sceloporus undulatus)

This small brown or gray lizard has large overlapping scales on its body giving it a very rough and cryptic appearance. It is frequent in open dry woodland habitats. They are often seen climbing on fallen logs or up the sides of trees. During breeding season, mature males will also have an iridescent blue on the sides of the belly and on the throat.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Texas Horned Lizard
(Phrynosoma cornutum)

Introduced

Often called Horny Toads, these stout and spiny lizard aree found in dune habitats on a few barrier islands. They have very wide and flattened bodies and are typically light brown with darker brown spots on its side. It has very large horns projecting from the base of its rounded head, and spines protruding from the sides of the abdomen

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone

Scincidae - Skinks

This is one of the largest and most diverse groups of lizards world wide. Generally these lizards have smooth scales, reduced limbs, and no pronounced neck. Four species are known to occur with regularity in South Carolina. One species, the Coal Skink (Plestiodon anthracinus), has been recorded in the state, but not in recent decades. As such, it is not included in the list below. 

Common Five-lined Skink
(Plestiodon faciatus)

This medium sized lizard has smooth shiny scales and is variable in coloration and pattern depending on age and gender. Adults often have five pale stripes extending down a brown body on to the tail. Juveniles have five prominent strips contrasting against a dark body and they posses a vibrant blue tail. During breeding season in the spring, male’s heads will change to a reddish orange. They are generally found in damper habitats and are more terrestrial than similar species. 

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Southeastern Five-lined Skink
(Plestiodon inexpectatus)

Like other members of the same genus, this skink is a medium sized lizard, with smooth shiny scales, and is variable in appearance depending on age and gender. Adults are typically light to dark brown in coloration with five pale faint stripes extending down their body. Juveniles are black in coloration with contrasting white or yellow stripes and have a vibrant blue tail. This skink is the only member of its genus to have rows equal sized scales on the underside of the tail and shows a preference for dryer habitats. 

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Broad-headed Skink
(Plestiodon laticeps)

This is the most aborreal of the Plestiodon sp. Males are larger and have a uniformly olive-brown body with a large orange-red head during the breeding season in the spring. Females have smaller heads, dark brown body, with faint striping from the base of the head onto the tail. Juveniles have a black ground color, a vibrant blue tail, and five white stripes extending down the body. At all stages this lizard has five labial scales (scales on upper lip).

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Ground Skink
(Scincella lateralis)

A small dark brown skink that is a specialist of the woodland floor. Like all members of the family Scincidae, the scales are smooth and shiny. The dorsal portion of the body is a reddish to deep chocolate brown coloration. Two dark, almost black, dorsal lateral stripes extend down the length of the lizards body and tail. Beneath these strips, the brown coloration becomes a bit lighter. The belly of this lizard is white to yellowish.

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

Teiidae - Racerunners

Also known as whiptails, this group generally has rectangular scales, a forked tongue, long tails, and long limbs. They are quite active in the right temperature range and South Carolina is represented by one member in this family. 

Six-lined Racerunner
(Aspidocelis sexlineata)

Most active during hot days, this small to medium sized lizard is black above with six pale yellow or white stripes extending down the length and tail. The scales are rough in appearance, and the underside is white or pale blueish. The tail is longer than the body in most individuals. They are found more frequently in open dry habitats. 

SC Distribution: Coastal Zone, Coastal Plains, Sandhills, Piedmont, Blue Ridge

The names and order of this list follow the 8th edition of Scientific and Standard English Names (2017) by Brian I. Crother and published by the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Click here for more information and a pdf of this checklist