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Western Skink
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Scincidae
Genus: Eumeces
Species: E. skiltonianus
Binomial name
Eumeces skiltonianus
(Baird and Girard, 1852)

The Western Skink (Eumeces skiltonianus) is a small, smooth-scaled lizard with relatively small limbs, measuring about 100 to 200 mm long. It is one of five species of lizards in Canada.Western skinks are very adaptable. They spend much of their day basking in the sun. Their diet ranges widely, including spiders and beetles. Western Skinks will bite if grasped and will flee if they feel threatened. It is a common but secretive species whose range extends throughout Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming and into western Montana and northern Arizona [1]. It is widespread in northern California but restricted to the coast in central and southern California. Found in a variety of habitats, this lizard is most common in early successional stages or open areas of late successional stages. Heavy brush and densely forested areas are generally avoided [2]. Western skinks are found from sea level to at least 2,130 m (7,000 ft) [3]. This diurnal reptile is active during the warm seasons [4].

Taxonomy

Tetrapoda:Amniota:Squamata:Reptilia:Scincidae

Baird and Girard described Skilton's Skink in 1852 and named it in honor of one Dr. Avery J. Skilton, who had sent them specimen of the species. Tanner (1957) identified the subspecies interparietalis and utahensis.

There are several subspecies:

  • Coronado Skink (E.s. interparietalis) (occurs in southern California and Baja California, Mexico)
  • Great Basin Skink (E.s. utahensis) (occurs in Utah)
  • Skilton's Skink (E.s. skiltonianus)

The most common is Skilton's Skink, which occurs throughout the western United States west of the Rocky Mountains and in southern British Columbia, Canada.

Together with the Gilbert's Skink (E. gilberti), the San Lucan Skink (E. lagunensis), and the Four-lined Asiatic Skink (E. quadrilineatus), the Western Skink belongs to the so-called "skiltonianus group". The exact taxonomy within this group is being questioned and may need revision following DNA analysis research.

Description

The Western Skink is a secretive and very agile lizard that forages actively through leaf litter and dense vegetation, preying upon small invertebrates including spiders,a variety of insects and sow bugs[5]. Crickets, beetles, moths, grasshoppers, and other arthropods have been found in the stomachs of skinks[6]. Prey is sometimes stalked and cannibalism has been reported[7].It is a good burrower and sometimes constructs burrows several times its own body length.

Found in a variety of habitats from sea level to at least 2,130 m (7,000 ft), the Western Skink is commonest in early successional stages or open areas within habitats in which it occurs. Heavy brush and densely forested areas are generally avoided. The Western Skink seems to prefer a somewhat moist environment, although it can also be found on dry hillsides. Frequents grassland, broken chaparral, pinon-juniper and juniper-sage woodland, and open pine-oak and pine forests[8]. The soil of its nest chambers is invariably moist. Standing water is apparently not required.

Juvenile Western Skink
Juvenile Western Skink

Aside from fading with age, color pattern of adults varies little. Broad brown stripe down back, edged with black and bordered on each side by conspicuous whitish to beige dorsolateral stripe that begins on nose and extends over eye and back along side of body onto tail. Pale dorsolateral stripes on joined halves of 2nd and 3rd scale rows. A second pale stripe, starting on upper jaw, occurs low on each side and is separated from the first by a broad dark brown or black band originating on side of head and usually extending well out onto tail. Tail dull blue (in juveniles) or gray. In the breeding season reddish or orange color appears on side of head and chin and occasionally on sides, tip, and underside of tail. Usually 7 upper labials and 4 enlarged nuchals. Young exhibit a striped pattern more vivid than in adult and tail bright blue. Dark lateral stripe usually extends well out on side of tail[9].

Distribution

Western Skinks can be found from southern British Columbia, Canada, to the tip of Baja, California and throughout most of Great Basin to extreme Northern Arizona; central Utah to the Pacific Coast. The species is apparently absent from the floor of San Joaquin Valley, central Sierra Nevada, and lowland deserts of California. In Northern Baja, California the species occurs in the northwestern part al least as far south as Colonia Guerro and in the south in the cape and Comondu regions, Santa Agueda, and San Francisco de la Sierra. On Santa Catalina, Los Coronados, and Todos Santos Island off the coast of California[10].

Behavior

Young Western Skinks have a bright blue tail with color that fades with age. If seized by a predator its tail is deliberately cast and wriggles violently attracting attention while the lizard may escape[11]. The tail will grow back with time but is often darker in color and misshapen.

Life History

This skink is diurnal during the period of warm-season activity. During summer most activity is concentrated in the morning and late afternoon. Where summer temperatures are not extreme, activity extends throughout the day. Adult skinks usually become inactive by early fall but juveniles extend their period of activity several weeks.

The reproductive season for this species varies geographically and from year to year depending on local conditions. Mating probably occurs in the spring soon after emergence. Males turn orange on the underside when they are breeding. Females lay 2-6 eggs during June and July. Western skink females construct nest chambers that are several centimeters deep in loose moist soil. Typically these chambers are located under surface objects, especially flat stones, logs, and sometimes in or near rock outcrops[12].

Young Western Skinks probably hatch in late summer, and sexual maturity may occur at 2 years of age, but most individuals probably do not reproduce until they are 3 years old. Western Skinks can reach an age of about 5 or 10 years.

References

  1. ^ Stebbins, R.C. 1985. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. 2nd ed., revised. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, Massachusetts. 336 pp
  2. ^ Tanner, W.W. 1957. A taxonomic and ecological study of the western skink (Eumeces skiltonianus). Great Basin Nat. 17(3-4):59-94.
  3. ^ Zeiner, D.C., W.F. Laudenslayer, Jr., K.E. Mayer, and M. White, eds. 1988. California's Wildlife. Vol. 1. Amphibians and reptiles. Calif. Dept. of Fish and Game, Sacramento, California. 272 pp.
  4. ^ Tanner, W.W. 1957. A taxonomic and ecological study of the western skink (Eumeces skiltonianus). Great Basin Nat. 17(3-4):59-94.
  5. ^ Stebbins, R.C. 1985. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. 2nd ed., revised. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, Massachusetts. 336 pp
  6. ^ Taylor, E.H. 1936. A taxonomic study of the cosmopolitan scincoid lizards of the genus Eumeces with an account of the distribution and relationship of its species. Univ. Kansas Sci. Bull. 23:315-428
  7. ^ Zweifel, R.G. 1952. Notes on the lizards of the Coronados Islands, Baja California, Mexico. Herpetologica 8:9-11
  8. ^ Stebbins, R.C. A Field Guide toWestern Reptiles and Amphibians 3rd edition. Peterson Field Guides. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston, MA. 2003
  9. ^ Stebbins, R.C. A Field Guide toWestern Reptiles and Amphibians 3rd edition. Peterson Field Guides. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston, MA. 2003
  10. ^ Stebbins, R.C. A Field Guide toWestern Reptiles and Amphibians 3rd edition. Peterson Field Guides. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston, MA. 2003
  11. ^ Stebbins, R.C. A Field Guide toWestern Reptiles and Amphibians 3rd edition. Peterson Field Guides. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston, MA. 2003
  12. ^ Tanner, W.W. 1957. A taxonomic and ecological study of the western skink (Eumeces skiltonianus). Great Basin Nat. 17(3-4):59-94







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