Little Brown Skink

Scincella lateralis

ground_skink.jpg

little brown skink
MDC Staff
Other Common Name
Ground Skink
Family

Scincidae (skinks) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)

Description

The little brown skink is a ground-dweller with dark brown or black stripes and speckling along the sides. Hiking along a forest trail, you may hear these small lizards scurrying through dead leaves, but you seldom see them. Missouri's smallest species of lizard has a brown or grayish-brown ground color with a wide, dark brown or black stripe down each side on the back, from the shout to midtail. Usually there are small dark flecks on the back and sides. The belly is light yellow, white, or gray. This is the only Missouri lizard with a clear scale on its lower eyelid, enabling it to see when the eyelids are closed.

Size

Total length: 4 inches (average).

Little Brown Skink

Little Brown Skink
Little Brown Skink
Little Brown Skink taken at Roscoe, Missouri

Little Brown Skink in Busiek State Forest

Little Brown Skink in Busiek State Forest
Little Brown Skink in Busiek State Forest
Little Brown Skink in Busiek State Forest
Habitat and conservation

Little brown skinks, formerly called ground skinks, live on the forest floor and spend much of their time in dead leaves or under flat rocks. They rarely climb trees like the other forest-dwelling skinks. Normally active from April to October, this lizard seldom ventures into open areas unless there is an abundance of natural shelter. On warm, sunny days, they move through leaf litter and escape predators in a rapid, snakelike movement.

Foods

A variety of small insects, spiders, and earthworms.

Little Brown Skink Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide, except for a few counties in the northwestern corner.

Life cycle

Courtship and mating apparently occur in spring and early summer, and females normally produce two clutches a season, with 2-7 eggs per clutch. The eggs are often retained inside the female for a considerable period, and the embryos are well developed when the eggs are laid. This shortens the incubation period so that it is only about 22 days. Eggs are laid in rotten logs, stumps, or under leaf litter or rocks.

Human connections

People rarely go out "lizard watching," the way we make special outings just to see birds, but Missouri hikers know that those brief, furtive crunchings in dry leaves below are lizards like these, making a getaway. It may seem like a small thing, but our woods wouldn't be the same without them.

Ecosystem connections

Because of their small size and ground-dwelling behavior, they can fall prey to a variety of predators: snakes, other species of lizards, birds, and mammals such as shrews, skunks, and armadillos. Even bluebirds have been recorded feeding these skinks to their nestlings.