California Reptiles & Amphibians




California Skinks - Plestiodon


(formerly Eumeces)








There are two species of skinks native to California:

Gilbert's Skinks, Plestiodon (Eumeces) gilberti, and
Western Skinks, Plestiodon (Eumeces) skiltonianus.

(The scientific name Eumeces has been changed to Plestiodon by some herpetologists in 2008. The new name "Plestiodon" does not match most of the existing sources of information about these lizards.)


Appearance

Both are small to medium-sized lizards with smooth, shiny skin. The scales are not rough and raised up like they are on some other kinds of lizards, such as alligator lizards.

Adult Gilbert's Skinks are typically brownish with no pattern and no stripes and no color on the tail.

Adult Western Skinks have alternating dark and light stripes running from the head down the length of the body. Sometimes the adults will retain some blue coloring on the tail.

Juveniles of both species tend to have bright blue or even pink on the tail, which fades with age.


Habitat

These skinks are generally fond of moist habitats, including rocky areas in forests and near water, but they will often be found under rocks, bark, or woody debris in areas which get direct sunlight. Sometimes they will be seen moving around in leaf litter or in grass during daylight, but usually they are secretive and hide under surface objects.


Differentiation

Adults of both species should not be difficult to differentiate. The presence or lack of stripes will determine the species. In areas where both species occur, juvenile Gilbert's Skinks can be difficult to tell apart from adult Western Skinks. Juvenile Gilbert's Skinks are striped and can be the same size as adult Western Skinks. One way to tell them apart is by looking at the stripes on the tail. The stripes on the side of juvenile Gilbert's Skinks do not extend very far past the rear legs, while the stripes on the side of the Western Skink extend far past the rear legs.

Look at the pictures and information below. When you decide which species you are identifying, click on the name link to find more information about a particular species and its subspecies.



Juvenile Skinks in California

 
Juvenile Gilbert's Skink

Stripes on the sides of the tail do not extend far past the rear legs. Compare
 
Adult Western Skink

Stripes on the sides of the tail extend far past the rear legs. Compare
Beware that the side stripes of adult Western Skinks with tails that have been re-grown may not continue far past the rear legs, as you can see here.
Juvenile Western Skink with blue tail. Juvenile Gilbert's Skink with pink tail. Juvenile Gilbert's Skink with blue tail.
Older juvenile Gilbert's Skink with a blue and pink tail. Older juvenile Gilbert's Skink with pink tail.
Skinks in Southern California might be confused with the Orange-throated whiptail, but the whiptail will have more light stripes and they are thinner. Click the picture above for a closer comparison.


Gilbert's Skinks - Plestiodon "gilberti"


Large adults with no distinct stripes. Often, the scales appear outlined with dark coloring.
Adult males in breeding condition develop bright red on the head and tail. This color fades after the breeding season is over.

Adults in some areas retain faint stripes, but they are not as distinct as those of the Western Skink.
Four subspecies of Gilbert's Skinks occur in California.
The taxonomy of Gilbert's skinks is under revision, meaning that the names of the subspecies not be valid and will probably change in the near future.

If you want to find which subspecies is found in your area, check the map below.
Click on the name links for more pictures and information.


 

More pictures and information:

Greater Brown Skink -
Plestiodon gilberti gilberti

Northern Brown Skink -
Plestiodon gilberti placerensis

Western Red-tailed Skink -
Plestiodon gilberti rubricaudatus

Variegated Skink -
Plestiodon gilberti cancellosus



Western Skinks - Plestiodon skiltonianus


  Adults with bright blue on the tail.  
 
Adults with little or no blue on the tail.
 
Adults in breeding condition develop a reddish wash on the head, throat and tail, and sometimes on the side. This color fades after the breeding season is over.

Two subspecies of Western Skinks are currently recognized. There is no easy way to tell them apart. In fact, some herpetologists do not believe that these subspecies are valid.

If you want to find which subspecies is found in your area, check the map below.
Click on the name links for more pictures and information.



 



More pictures and information:

Skilton's Skink -
P. s. skiltonianus


Coronado Skink -
P. s. interparietalis




Home | Lists | Maps | Photo Indexes | Sounds | Videos | Identification | More Info | Beyond CA | About Us | Usage | Taxonomy | New Stuff | Thanks | Disclaimers | Contact

Return to the Top

© 2000 - 2010