Order Squamata - snakes and lizards
Family Scincidae - skinks
Scientific Name: Eumeces obsoletus
Description: One of the largest members of the skink family with a total length of 6.5- 9 inches. Skinks are long and cylindrical with small limbs adapted for burrowing. Scales on the belly are whitish-gray. The scales on the head, back, and limbs range in color from light tan to light gray and are edged in dark brown or black in such a way as to give a striped appearance. On the sides, the scales are angled obliquely to the scales on the back. Lower eyelid is movable and has a clear scale in the center. Juveniles are black with blue tails and small bluish-white to orange spots on the head.
Home Range: Southern Nebraska and extreme Western Missouri southward, including much of Texas; west to Central Arizona; southward to Northeast Mexico; an isolated colony in Arkansas. Common in most of Kansas except the Northwest High Plains.
Habitat Type: Open, rocky hillsides with low vegetation.
Reproductive Habits: Breeding time is in May. The male approaches the female and flicks his tongue at her a few times before grasping her with his mouth on her shoulder. He will then wrap his hind legs around her hind legs and copulation will last several minutes. The female will burrow deep beneath a large boulder and lay 5-35 eggs, with 12 being average. She will remain with the eggs to incubate them. After the eggs hatch, the mother will guard the young and lick them clean. Skinks in this genus are nearly the only reptiles to show parental care. The young take several years to reach sexual maturity.
Diet in Wild: Beetles, roaches, grasshoppers, spiders, and snails. In captivity, they will eat rodents and other lizards.
Diet in Zoo: 3 crickets on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
General Info: Great Plains skinks are well adapted to living most of their life beneath the rocks. Their limbs help them to dig but are small enough to fit into small spaces. In addition, these skinks have a movable lower eyelid which is clear in the center. This enables the skinks to see while they dig and keep dirt out of the eye at the same time. Although they are diurnal, Great Plains skinks spend very little time basking in the sun; instead, they will spend most of the day lying beneath sun-warmed rocks. They are rarely seen on the surface when the temperature drops below 70 degrees. In the winter, they will burrow deep or spend their time in a rock crevice that will not freeze. The males emerge in the spring before the females.
Although they are not slimy, they are difficult to hold onto and their tail will break off quite easily. They can inflict a painful bite when handled.
Predators: Snakes, birds, and small mammals. Predation has little effect on populations as this animal spends so much time underneath rocks.
Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. Joseph T. Collins. University of Kansas Press. Lawrence, KS. 1993. pp. 165-167.
The Completely Illustrated Atlas of Reptiles and Amphibians for the Terrarium. Fritz Jurgen Obst et al. T. F. H. Publications. Neptune City, NJ. 1988. p. 175.
Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians. Roger Conant et al. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston. 1991. pp. 131-132.