Southern Coal Skink

Plestiodon anthracinus pluvialis


photo of juvenile southern coal skink
MDC Staff

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


A small, shiny, brownish-tan lizard with broad, dark stripes down the sides. The general color is tan, brown, or olive brown. The stripe on the side can be brown or black, is bordered by a thin light line above and below, and is 2-4 scales wide. There are no light stripes on the head. During the breeding season, adult males have dark orange on the sides of the head. Hatchlings are black with faint lines running down the back and sides.


Length: 5 to 6 inches (average).

Habitat and conservation

Few people know about this shy lizard. It is active on sunny days but quickly takes shelter in dead leaves or under rocks or logs when approached. It is active from late March to mid-September. Occurs in forests near streams, rivers, or sloughs. Also found in rocky, open glades. Seems to prefer open, damp, rock-strewn woods where it takes shelter under logs, bark, leaf litter, or rocks.


Eats a variety of small insects and spiders.

Southern Coal Skink Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Restricted to the southern half of the state.

Life cycle

Not much is known about the courtship and mating of this species in our state. Generally, they lay 7-11 eggs in June or early July, and the female remains with the eggs until they hatch.

Human connections

Skinks are among many reptiles that easily shed their tails and regrow new ones. This "self-amputation" is called autotomy. Scientists studying the molecular and cellular workings of this regeneration may one day help humans overcome spinal cord injuries.

Ecosystem connections

Like most other lizards, this species preys on insects and other small animals and therefore helps maintain their numbers in a natural balance. It is preyed upon by larger predators, including snakes and many mammals and birds.