Coal Skink (Eumeces [Plestiodon] anthracinus)

Coal Skink (Eumeces [Plestiodon] anthracinus)
Coal Skink (Eumeces [Plestiodon] anthracinus)

Photos by J.D. Willson unless otherwise noted

Description: 5 – 7 in (12.5 – 18 cm). Coal skinks are mid-sized lizards with short legs and a streamlined body. The body is generally gray or brown, in background color with four white or yellowish stripes (two on each side). Although superficially similar to other skinks, the lack of a stripe down the center of the back easily distinguishes this species, within its restricted range.

Range and Habitat: Coal skinks are patchily distributed in the eastern States. Within our region, they are only found in mountainous areas of northern Georgia and western South Carolina and in a small distinct area of western Georgia. Within this region, they are found most often in moist forests and are usually associated with stream margins.

Habits: Coal skinks are uncommonly encountered and their habits are poorly understood. This species is most often found along stream edges and often shelters under rocks, logs, or other cover. When disturbed, coal skinks often dive into water and hide beneath rocks or other aquatic debris. Like many other lizards, coal skinks will break off their tails when restrained, distracting the predator and allowing the lizard to escape.

Prey: Coal skinks presumably prey on a wide variety of insects, spiders, and other invertebrates.

Reproduction: Female coal skinks lay clutches of several eggs in moist soil or rotten logs during the summer and attend the eggs until they hatch.

Abundance: Coal skinks are uncommon, even within their restricted range. Research is necessary to determine the status of this species in Georgia and South Carolina.