Ground Skink (Scincella lateralis)

Photos by Amanda Hurst unless otherwise noted

Description: 3 – 5.5 in (7.5 – 14.5 cm). Ground skinks are small, slender lizards with long tails and short legs. They range from golden brown to almost black in coloration but are most often coppery brown with a darker stripe running along each side of the body. The belly is white or yellowish.

Range and Habitat: Ground skinks range throughout Georgia and South Carolina and are abundant in all but the wettest habitats. They prefer areas with loose soil and abundant leaf litter and are often found beneath logs, boards, and other cover objects.

Habits: Unlike many other lizards in our region, ground skinks virtually never climb. Rather than running on their tiny legs, ground skinks use their slender bodies to wriggle or “swim” through leaf litter or loose soil, often disappearing in a flash as soon as they are discovered. Like other lizards, ground skinks will break off their tail to confuse a potential predator.

Prey: Ground skinks prey on tiny insects, spiders, and other invertebrates.

Reproduction: Female ground skinks lay clutches of several eggs in moist soil or rotten logs during the summer. It is suspected that ground skinks may lay several clutches per season.

Abundance: Ground skinks are abundant in most habitats, particularly open woodlands with abundant leaf litter.