Ground Skink
(Scincella lateralis)

Description: 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. It reaches an average adult length of 3 – 5.5 inches (7.5 – 14.5 cm). 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.

Natural History: If you walk through a woodland forest in the Southeastern United States, you are likely to hear the scurrying of this lizard before you actually lay eyes on it. They are abundant in most habitats that have a good amount of leaf litter and will weave their small slender bodies in and out of the leaves on the forest floor in snake-like movements as they search for small insects, spiders and other invertebrates. This lizard very seldom climbs, but can be found in the bark or underneath fallen branches or stumps. They make up a good portion of the diet of small snakes like scarlet snakes, as well as a variety of birds. Like other skinks, this lizard will break off its tail to confuse predators and evade capture.

Similar species: Most other small brown lizards have rough scales and light stripes, while the Ground Skink has smooth shiny scales and dark stripes. They can be confused with some species of salamanders like the Two-lined Salamander which does occur in similar habitats. Salamanders lack scales and and claws.

Distribution: This species has a wide continuous range extending from southern New Jersey down to the Florida Keys. The range extends westward into central Texas and then up through Kansas and southern Ohio.

Contributed by Jake Zadik (12/04/2019)