While hiking in the woods of my college, I started at the sound of rustling leaves on the edge of the trail. My mind immediately thought “herp.” I scrutinized the leaf litter until I saw a small copper-colored skink partly concealed under a leaf. When I tried to get a better look, it dove deeper into the ground. This was my first personal encounter with a little brown skink (Scincella lateralis). I have found them many times now that I live in their range, but getting a picture of them is really hard. To get a photo for this post, I held a photography contest at my college. Congratulations to the winner, Trevor Sleight! His photo is shown below.
S. lateralis ranges from mid-Texas to the Atlantic and as far north as southern Ohio. They grow to be five inches in length and are found predominately in leaf litter. Unlike some other species of skink, brown skinks are not arboreal. Instead, they stay amongst the forest debris. When chased, they run underneath leaves or into decaying logs. There have been some recorded instances of brown skinks escaping into stagnant pools of water with only their head above the surface.
The easiest field mark is the brown to copper coloration running from the snout to the base of the tail along the back. These skinks share similar characteristics to the coal and mole skinks. Coal skinks have yellow striping on their sides, which the brown skink lacks, and mole skinks have a red tail which is also not present in the brown skink. Another cool feature of Scincella lateralis is its clear membrane, often referred to as a “window,” in the lower eyelid which allows them to see even when their eyes are closed.
The little brown skink’s diet includes invertebrates such as spiders, millipedes, termites, and isopods. Their predators are wolf spiders, a number of snakes, and several species of birds. They are also preyed upon by domestic dogs and cats.
This species is readily found in a variety of habitats across their range. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) lists them as a species of least concern and marks their population as stable. There are no conservation concerns for this species.
Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, follow my twitter where I post all of my writings! I used Lizards & Crocodilians of The Southeast by Whit Gibbons, Judy Greene, and Tony Mills for research. Matthew Anthony edited this article.