Many-lined Skink Plestiodon multivirgatus - Special Concern

Family: Scincidae

Description: The Many-lined Skink is a medium-sized lizard ranging from 5–8 inches (13–20 cm) in total length. Individuals may be shorter due to incomplete or partially regenerated tails. For those with a complete tail, the tail length is more than half of the total length. The overall body coloration is tan or light gray with a series of black stripes running down the body. Approximately ten stripes run down the length of the back, with some stripes being more obvious than others. The back has two large, bold black stripes running the length of the body that taper as they reach the tail. A thin white stripe, bordered by a single row of black scales, is positioned dorsolaterally on the body. Like other skinks, Many-lined Skinks have limbs that are small and thin, tubular bodies, and distinct ear openings. The underside is a pale cream color without markings. 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 white. Males are easily differentiated from females during the breeding season by having orange or red 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 juveniles age, the black coloration fades to tan, stripes begin to appear, and the blue tail color fades away. Like the Prairie Skink, the Many-lined Skink has smooth scales, giving it a shiny appearance.

Habitat: Many-lined Skinks inhabit grasslands with sandy soils where they are frequently found under cover objects, like rocks, logs, or boards. Unlike Prairie Lizards and Common Lesser Earless Lizards, Many-lined Skinks often occur in areas with dense vegetation.

Natural History: Many-lined Skinks are diurnal and insectivorous, consuming a wide variety of terrestrial insects and arthropods. They are secretive and often spend a majority of their time in burrows or under cover objects. Individuals are rarely observed moving through the habitat and instead are more commonly observed after cover objects like boards, logs, or rocks are moved. When disturbed, Many-lined Skinks quickly dart to shelter, swiftly moving through vegetation. They can drop their tail to escape predators. The dropped tail can continue to wiggle for several minutes, drawing a predator’s attention while the skink escapes. Regenerated tails are a slightly different color and usually shorter than the original tail. Many-lined Skinks overwinter underground in burrows. 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 predators until they hatch in July or August.

Species Distribution: 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 Distribution: This species is only documented in south-central South Dakota, west of the Missouri River, where suitable grassland habitats from the Sandhills extend into the state. South Dakota records are few, and additional surveys may better document distribution in the region. Areas of suitable habitats may occur on Pine Ridge and Rosebud tribal reservations as well as throughout Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.

South Dakota Status: This species is monitored by the South Dakota Natural Heritage Program. Any observations of this species should be reported to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (report observation).

Distribution Map
Age in years of Most Recent Record
5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75+
Phenology of Many-lined Skink (Plestiodon multivirgatus)
Many-lined Skink (Plestiodon multivirgatus)