Often mistaken for salamanders, skinks represent the second largest family of lizards (Scincidae), with over 1400 species included in this family. Skinks are fascinating lizards due to the ability of some types of skinks to lay eggs, while others give birth to live skinklets.
All skinks have amazing tree-climbing and burrowing skills that make it difficult for raccoons, foxes, and other predators to catch them. Skinks have adapted to living in all weather and terrestrial conditions, except for Antarctica and subarctic climates. Some types of skinks are also popular as pets, such as the blue-tailed and common garden skinks.
Skink Scientific Classification Information
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Reptilia
- Order: Squamata
- Family: Scincidae
9 Types of Skinks
Here are nine random examples of skinks living in nearly all regions of the world except Antarctica: common garden skink, rainbow skink, Pacific blue-tailed skink, Solomon Islands skink, blue-tongued skink, giant lance skink, blue-tail mole skink, broadhead skink, and fire skink.
1. Common Garden Skink
- Length: three to five inches.
- Life span: two to three years
- Reproduction: oviparous (lays eggs between June and October)
Also called the grass skink and penny lizard, the common garden skink lives throughout Australia, including Tasmania and New South Wales. Typically brownish-black in color, the common garden skink’s skin can turn dark red if the lizard suns itself on a rock or other garden object. When threatened, garden skinks will dive underwater if they are near a body of water and stay submerged for as long as five to six minutes.
When they catch a cricket, earthworm, caterpillar, or other small insects, they’ll give that meal a quick shake and proceed to swallow the insect whole. Also, common garden skinks enjoy a diet of worms and bugs, and they also have a fondness for cooked vegetables and fruits when they are kept as pets.
2. Rainbow Skink
- Length: six to 8 inches
- Life span: three to four years. Rainbow skinks in captivity will live longer with proper care
- Reproduction: Females can lay up to 25 eggs per year (eight per batch)
Endemic to southern Africa and Egypt, the rainbow skink is considered an invasive species of lizard in Florida due to its popularity as a pet. Over the past few years, the release of pet rainbow skinks into Florida’s warm, humid climate has resulted in an explosion of rainbow skinks that infest homes and force other FL lizards to compete for food.
Dark or greenish brown in color with bright, red or orange heads, the rainbow skink’s glossy scales reflect a metallic sheen when exposed to sunlight. This iridescence is what gives the rainbow skink its name.
3. Pacific Blue-tailed Skink
- Length: six to seven inches
- Life span: About seven years in the wild; between 10 and 15 years in captivity
- Reproduction: After laying five to six eggs, the female Pacific blue-tailed skink buries her eggs under a few inches of soil
Native to Australia, Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands, the Pacific blue-tailed skink has a vividly blue tail and cream-colored or light beige stripes extending along the sides of its body from the nose to the tail. During their adult years, Pacific blue-tailed skinks turn darker in color and eventually lose their stripes.
Younger skinks will have the brightest blue tails to avoid being captured. If a juvenile Pacific blue-tailed skink’s tail is grabbed by a predator that is attracted to the tail, this versatile skink will intentionally “lose” its tail, escape the predator and, later, regrow a new tail!
4. Solomon Islands Skink
- Length: up to 32 inches (including tail)
- Life span: 10 to 15 years
- Reproduction: females develop a placenta and have a gestation period of eight months (viviparous matrotrophy). Placental births rarely occur among female reptiles.
Also referred to as the giant skink or the monkey skink, the Solomon Islands skink is the largest known skink in existence. Two major differences set the Solomon Islands skink apart from other skinks: it has a prehensile tail that lets this skink move easily from tree branch to tree branch, and it is a strict herbivore.
Instead of munching on insects and worms, the Solomon Islands skink eats only plants, wild vegetables, and fruit. Solomon Island skinks also form social groups in which members protect other members from predators.
Due to logging, human consumption, and pet trade exportation, Solomon Island skinks are protected by the CITES organization from being exported and sold as pets.
5. Blue-tongued Skink
- Length: 20 and 25 inches
- Life span: Wild blueys can live as long as 10 years. In captivity, they have been known to live up to 20 years.
- Reproduction: Viviparous (females give birth to between one and four live skinklets)
Australians call them “blueys” or “blue-tongues”, but herpetologists more precisely refer to them as blue-tongued skinks. Naturally, anyone can guess why they have earned the name blue-tongued skink–their large blue tongues.
When threatened, they will aggressively display their tongue in an attempt to scare them away. The more intense the threat, the brighter blue the tongue will be.
Blue-tongued skinks rely on their unique tongue to catch insects and other prey by producing a sticky mucus-like fluid that makes it difficult for prey to escape.
6. Giant Lance Skink
- Length: 16 inches
- Life span: between five and 10 years; up to 15 or 20 years in captivity
- Reproduction: Viviparous
Belonging to a small group of limbless skinks, the giant lance skink has evolved fused eyelids to allow it to “swim” just below the African desert sands. Appearing snakelike at first glance, the giant lance skink can also be found in South African shrublands and along the coast of South Africa.
These lance skinks are omnivorous and possess exceptional movement-sensing abilities similar to snakes. Although they are popular as pets, the giant lance skink is not endangered and is considered a reptile of “least concern” to conservationists.
7. Bluetail Mole Skink
- Length: three to six inches
- Life span: between three and five years
- Reproduction: Viviparous. Female bluetail mole skinks lay three to six eggs every spring, and watch over the eggs until they hatch in about two months.
A federally-threatened species of skinks, the bluetail mole skink is found mostly in Orange, Seminole, and other Central Florida counties where scrubs and sandhills are plentiful. They like to bury themselves in the soil to hide from predators, emerging periodically to consume crickets, spiders, and other insects.
Young bluetail mole skinks have long, blue tails that become shorter and less blue as they mature. The change in tail color and length is usually caused by several instances of tail regeneration due to predator attacks. Habitat loss and the pet trade industry are the reasons why this particular skink is endangered.
8. Broadhead Skink
- Length: between five and 13 inches
- Life span: up to five or six years
- Reproduction: Female broadhead skinks lay between seven and 20 eggs in the spring. They protect their eggs until they hatch in mid-summer.
Semi-arboreal and bearing a triangle-shaped head with large jaws, the broadhead skink is found in the southeastern U.S. where it loves to hide in small holes in oak trees. In fact, broadhead skinks can be territorial about the particular oak tree they live in, attacking other skinks who attempt to steal the tree.
Females prefer building their nests in decaying or dead trees that provide more material for making nests. Adult male broadhead skinks exhibit bright reddish-yellow heads during spring to attract female broadhead skinks. When males aren’t searching for mates, their heads and bodies are dark greenish-brown.
9. Fire Skink
- Length: 15 inches (including the tail)
- Life span: 10 years in the African jungles; up to 20 years in captivity
- Reproduction: Females lay between five to 10 eggs in a clutch once a year. The eggs take about two months to hatch.
The Togo fire skink or fire skink is larger than most other skinks and prized as a pet for its longevity and bright colors. Endemic to the tropical jungles of Central and West Africa, the fire skink has a hermetic nature and prefers to stay hidden during the day and night by burrowing several inches below the ground.
Female and male fire skinks display the same colors all year long–a gold back with tiny black and red squares dotting their silver-scaled sides. Female fire skinks may be slightly smaller than male skinks, with rounder heads and more slender jaws.