Ground Skink Scincella lateralis

Adult from southern Mississippi

Identification

This tiny lizard is more often heard than seen. Ground Skinks live in and amongst the leaf litter and debris on the forest floor and can be difficult to get a good look at, as they quickly and noisily burrow into the leaves. Like Indiana’s larger skinks, these small lizards have glossy-smooth scales. Ground Skinks are brown with lighter grayish sides and tail and two thin, dark lateral stripes. Importantly, adult Ground Skinks rarely exceed 5 in (12 cm) in length, making this Indiana’s smallest lizard.

Adult from Brown County
Eggs from Brown County

Ground Skinks are easily separated from Indiana’s other skink species by their small size. The largest Ground Skinks are the size of juvenile Five-Lined Skinks and Broad-Headed Skinks, which have bright blue tails and are more robust even as juveniles.

Ecology and Conservation

Ground Skinks prefer dry, sparse woodland areas where they can be found hiding under rotten logs, rocks, or garbage. They do not generally climb, but will enter the water from time to time. Though they dwell largely in leaf litter on the forest floor, they are abundant in and around forest openings, forest edges, and along sunny trails.

Forest opening in Brown County
Forest opening in Brown County

Distribution

The Ground Skink ranges from southern New Jersey south to the Florida Keys, west through eastern Kansas, and central and southern Texas. They are absent from the Appalachians. In the Midwest, the Ground Skink can be found in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri

Ground Skinks are most abundant in the oak-hickory forests of south-central Indiana.

Taxonomy

There are no currently recognized subspecies of the Ground Skink (Scincella lateralis). These lizards belong to the family Scincidae, which is represented in Indiana by a total of three species.

Literature Cited

Conant, R. and J. T. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY.

Minton, S. A. 2001. Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science.

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Ground Skink (Scincella lateralis)
Photographs