Do you know what a skink is? No, it’s not a confused skunk! Skinks are in facts a type of lizard. There are well over a thousand different types of skink, making them the 2nd most diverse group of lizards after iguanas.
A skink looks a bit like a cross between a lizard and a snake. They have long bodies with tiny little legs – in fact some types of skink have no legs at all! They also have long tails which make up half their length. These are special because they can be shed if grabbed by a predator and then regrown.
Because there are so many different types of skink, they can be found in a variety of habitats. Some like to live in deserts, others on mountains and still more in grasslands. Some skinks are good climbers and make their homes in trees but most are burrowers who live beneath the ground. If there is one word that sums skinks up it’s cosmopolitan!
The vast majority of skinks are carnivores. Most of their diet consists of invertebrates like beetles or snails, though occasionally they’ll take small mammals or even other lizards. There are a few types of skink which are partial to vegetables but they still need half of their diet to be animal.
Skinks are so different to one another that even their young enter the world in different ways. Most skinks lay eggs (from 8 – 100, depending on the type of skink) in nests. Once laid the eggs are abandoned and the young left to fend for themselves. But almost half of all types of skink give birth to live offspring, just like us mammals.
Skinks have many predators – herons, foxes, mongooses, snakes, hawks, lizards… They are also victims of human expansion with pet cats and dogs taking quite a few. In some places skinks make their nests in warm places beneath human homes – not a wise idea!
Because of their versatility and wide ranging habitats, skinks are doing quite well. Of the 1,000 plus species, only a handful are under threat of extinction.
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I hope you enjoyed finding out about skinks. If there is any animal, or plant, you’d like us to feature in Nature Matters, then let the Education Quizzes team know by filling in the box below. We’ll do our darndest to get the facts just for you.