General Description: The Many-lined Skink is a medium-sized lizard ranging from 4–7 inches (10.2–17.8 cm) in total length, but are often shorter due to incomplete or partially regenerated tails. The overall body coloration of the Many-lined Skink is tan and a series of black stripes run longitudinally along the body. On the back, two large, bold black stripes separate run the length of the body and taper down as they reach the tail. A thin white stripe, bordered by a single row of black scales is positioned dorsolaterally on the body. The underside is a pale cream color. On some individuals, dorsal stripes may be muted or absent, resulting in a uniformly colored, tan appearance. Typically, the scales along the upper and lower jaws are whitish in coloration. During the breeding season males are easily differentiated from females by having orange coloration on their chin. Newly hatched individuals are often solid black with a bright blue tail. This conspicuously colored tail serves as a lure to direct predatory strikes away from the body, allowing individuals to escape. As individuals age, the black coloration fades to tan and stripes begin to appear and the blue tail fades away. Similar to the Prairie Skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis), the Many-lined Skink has smooth scales, giving it a shiny appearance.
Behavior: Many-lined Skinks are insectivorous, consuming a wide variety of insects and arthropods. Individuals are secretive and often spending a majority of time in burrows or under cover objects. Additionally, Many-lined Skinks often drop their tails in order to escape various predators that can be regenerated.
Reproduction: Mating typically takes place in the spring, with females laying 3–9 eggs in sandy soils. Females will stay with eggs and protect them from potential predators. Eggs typically hatch in late summer.
Habitat: The Prairie Skink typically inhabits grasslands with sandy soils where they are frequently found under various cover objects.
Species Range: This species can be found throughout portions of the central Great Plains from southern South Dakota and Nebraska southwest into Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas.
South Dakota Range: This species is only found in south-central South Dakota where the Sandhills extend into South Dakota.
South Dakota Status: This species is listed on the South Dakota Natural Heritage Program. Any sightings of this species should be reported to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.
Account written by Drew R. Davis