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Sand skink

Neoseps reynoldsi

Listing Status

  • Federal Status: Threatened
  • FL Status: Federally-designated Threatened
  • FNAI Ranks: G2/S2 (Imperiled)
  • IUCN Status: VU (Vulnerable)

Appearance

sand skink

The sand skink is a small, slender, grey to light brown lizard with shiny scales that can reach a length of five inches (12.7 centimeters) (Christman 1992).  Sand skinks have limbs that are greatly reduced legs with one toe on each front limb and two toes on each hind limb.  Other features of the sand skink include a wedged-shape snout, small eyes, and no external ear openings.

Behavior

The sand skink is a “sand–swimming” skink that is rarely seen above ground.  The presence of this species is generally noted by the distinct waving tracks left in the sand as it “swims” just below the surface.  Sand skinks feed on ant-lions (insect that resembles a dragonfly), spiders, beetle larvae, and termites (Christman 1992). 

Little is known about the reproduction of the sand skink.  Sand skinks are active and breed between the first of March and the first of May (Telford 1959).  During nesting activity, females are difficult to find (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1999).  Females lay one clutch of two eggs in sand, debris, or under logs, 55 days after breeding (Telford 1959, Ashton 2005).  Sand skink eggs hatch in the months of June and July (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1999).  Sexual maturity may be reached at two years of age (Telford 1959). 

Habitat

sand skink map

Sand skinks are endemic to xeric habitats found along Central Florida sand ridges, and remnants of ancient coastal dunes created during events when sea levels rose and fell.  These habitats include rosemary scrub, scrubby flatwoods, sand pine and oak scrubs, and turkey oak ridge (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001).  The Florida sand skink is found only in seven Central Florida counties: Osceola, Polk, Lake, Highlands, Putnam, Orange, and Marion.

Threats

The main threat to the sand skink is loss of habitat (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1999).  Over two-thirds of historical xeric habitat has been altered or lost to agriculture or development in Florida (Peroni and Abrahamson 1985, Christman 1988).   

Conservation and Management

The sand skink is protected as a Threatened species by the Federal Endangered Species Act and as a Federally-designated Threatened species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.

Federal Recovery Plan

References

Ashton, K.G. (2005). Life History of a Fossorial Lizard, Neoseps reynoldsi. Journal of Herpetology. Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 389-395, Lake Placid, Florida.

Christman, S.P 1988 Endemism in Florida’s interior sand pine scrub. Florida game and Freshwater Fish Commission. Nongame Wildlife Program. Final Report, Tallahassee, FL.

Christman, S.P.,1992. Sand skink, Neoseps reynoldsi (Stejneger). Pages 135-140 in P. E. Moler,   editor. Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida. Volume III.  Amphibians and reptiles.  University Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.

Florida Natural Areas Inventory.  2001.  Field guide to the rare animals of Florida.
http://www.fnai.org/fieldguide/pdf/neoseps_reynoldsi.pdf

Peroni, P.A. and W.G. Abrahamson. 1985.  Vegetation loss on the southern Lake Wales Ridge. Palmetto 5:6-7.

Telford, S.R., Jr. 1959. A study of the sand skink, Neoseps reynoldsi. Copeia 1959 (2):100-119.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. (1999, May 18). Sand skink. Retrieved August 3, 2011, from Multi-Species Recovery Plan for South Florida : 
http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/MSRPPDFs/SandSkink.pdf

Banner Image by Jonathan Mays