SKINKS

Skinks (Family Scincidae) are not only the most diverse lizard group but are also one of the world’s most species-rich families of terrestrial vertebrates. With ~1,730 described species, skinks have a global distribution, with diversity hotspots in Australasia, Asia, and Africa.

 

Skinks are characterised by having large shield-like head scales, smooth glossy cycloid scales (although some species have keeled scales), and a bony secondary palate.

HABITAT

Skinks epitomize diversity in virtually every aspect of their biology. Skinks can be terrestrial, arboreal, fossorial or semi-aquatic. They can inhabit deserts, rainforests, windswept oceanic islands, and alpine peaks.

Global skink distribution and diversity

Egernia stokesii
Egernia stokesii

Photo: Mike Gardner

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Carinascincus metallicus
Carinascincus metallicus

Photo: David Chapple

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Tiliqua rugosa
Tiliqua rugosa

Photo: Mike Gardner

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Egernia stokesii
Egernia stokesii

Photo: Mike Gardner

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MORPHOLOGY

 

Their body size exhibits a 21-fold difference from the smallest (24 mm snout-vent length [SVL], Scincella macrotis) to largest species (500 mm SVL, Acontias plumbeus).

Chalcides pulchellus
Chalcides pulchellus

Photo: Laurent Chirio

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Androngo trivittatus
Androngo trivittatus

Photo: Aurelien Miralles

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Tiliqua rugosa
Tiliqua rugosa

Photo: Mike Gardner

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Chalcides pulchellus
Chalcides pulchellus

Photo: Laurent Chirio

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Skinks exhibit the greatest degree of morphological variation of any lizard family, with species ranging from long and slender and large and robust. They exhibit extreme variation in limb development, from species with the full tetrapod complement of 4 long, 5-fingered limbs, to shorter limbs with fewer fingers, to species with either no forelimbs or (rarely) no hindlimbs, to forms lacking limbs altogether.

REPRODUCTION​

 

Skinks display more transitions from oviparity to viviparity than any other vertebrate (or invertebrate) family.

 

There are even two skink species that display geographic variation in their reproductive mode (& one species can even have both reproductive modes within the same clutch!!).

Pygomeles braconnieri
Egernia stokesii badia
Tiliqua multifasciata_Pilbara_Ruchira So
Chioninia spinalis boavistensis
Chioninia spinalis boavistensis

Photo: Aurelien Miralles

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Chalcides polylepis
Chalcides polylepis

Photo: Aurelien Miralles

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Egernia epsisolous
Egernia epsisolous

Photo: R.J.Ellis

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Chioninia spinalis boavistensis
Chioninia spinalis boavistensis

Photo: Aurelien Miralles

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Saiphos equalis
Saiphos equalis_Jules Farquhar
Acontias cf. gracillicauda
Acontias cf. gracillicauda

Photo: Werner Conradie

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Sphenomorphus stellatus
Sphenomorphus stellatus

Photo: Nguyen Quang Truong

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Feylinia grandisquamis
Feylinia grandisquamis

Photo: Laurent Chirio

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Acontias cf. gracillicauda
Acontias cf. gracillicauda

Photo: Werner Conradie

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