In this article, the reader will discover three fascinating types of skinks found in New Mexico. Skinks, often misunderstood creatures, are actually a type of lizard but are frequently mistaken for snakes due to their unique characteristics. They have short limbs, move in a zig-zag pattern, and enjoy hiding under debris, just like snakes. However, they are distinct in their own right. The article will introduce the Great Plains Skink, known for its aggressive nature and varied coloring. Next, the Many-Lined Skink will be discussed, with its long tail and striking blue tail in younger individuals. Lastly, the Mountain Skink will be explored, known for its presence in southwestern New Mexico and its ability to give birth to live young. With this comprehensive guide, readers will gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the diverse skink species in New Mexico.
1. Great Plains Skink Plestiodon obsoletus
The Great Plains Skink, also known as Plestiodon obsoletus, is a species of skink that can be found in the state of New Mexico. It can grow up to 13 inches long and its coloring ranges from light gray or olive to tan, with darker brown markings. The tail and feet of the Great Plains Skink are usually pale yellow or orange, and the belly is often marked with salmon. Young individuals are black with an iridescent blue tail and gold spots on the head.
In terms of habitat, the Great Plains Skink is frequently found in prairie grasslands with open, low-growing plants. However, they can also be found in woodland or semi-arid desert areas. These skinks are often aggressive if threatened, so it is important to observe them with caution. They typically hide under rocks, shrubs, or logs but are likely to bite if disturbed or handled.
The Great Plains Skink is an aggressive hunter and feeds on insects, snails, spiders, and even other lizards. Their diet consists mainly of small invertebrates that they can catch and consume. They play an important role in controlling populations of these creatures in their ecosystem.
2. Many-Lined Skink Plestiodon multivirgatus
The Many-Lined Skink, or Plestiodon multivirgatus, is another skink species found in New Mexico. Unlike the Great Plains Skink, it is smaller in size, growing up to 7.5 inches long. One distinguishing characteristic of the Many-Lined Skink is its tail, which is much longer than its body compared to other skinks, roughly 1 to 1.5 times as long. The body of the Many-Lined Skink is marked by light and dark stripes that run its entire length. During the breeding season, males may develop orange or red lips.
Many-Lined Skinks prefer areas with water or moist soil and can be found in various habitats, from mountain areas to vacant lots and even city dumps. They primarily feed on ant larvae and other insects that they can find in their environment. Interestingly, young Many-Lined Skinks have bright blue tails, which serve as a defensive strategy. If a predator tries to bite or grab the skink, it can drop its tail and escape, leaving the predator to latch onto the tail instead of the skink’s body.
There are two subspecies of the Many-Lined Skink: the Northern Many-Lined Skink (P.m. multivirgatus) and the Variable Skink (P.m. epipleurotus). The Northern Many-Lined Skink generally has more well-defined stripes and is almost always gray and black. On the other hand, the Variable Skink comes in a variety of colors and patterns. The ranges of these subspecies do not overlap, and some scientists even consider them two separate species.
3. Mountain Skink Plestiodon callicephalus
The Mountain Skink, Plestiodon callicephalus, is a species of skink that can be found in the mountain regions of southwestern New Mexico. It is a smaller skink, growing up to 2.75 inches long from snout to vent. The coloring of adult Mountain Skinks is olive to tan, with a muddy blue tail. Young individuals have a bright blue tail and more defined lines. They also have a white or light orange Y-shaped mark on their head.
Mountain Skinks are typically found in pine and oak forests in mountainous regions. Their diet consists of beetles, flies, cockroaches, and spiders, which they can catch and consume in their habitat. One interesting characteristic of the Mountain Skink is that it often retains its blue tail into adulthood, although the color is not as bright as in its youth.
Reproduction in Mountain Skinks can occur through live birth or by laying eggs, depending on their specific habitat and other conditions. When they do lay eggs, the female skink will tend to them until they hatch. This species exhibits interesting reproductive behaviors that contribute to their survival and population growth.
Field Guide for Identifying Skinks
If you need additional help identifying skinks, a useful resource is the Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. This guide provides detailed information and illustrations that can assist in recognizing different skink species, as well as other reptiles and amphibians found in the western region of the United States.
The field guide includes information on each species’ range, habitat, behavior, and identifying characteristics. It can be a valuable tool for both amateur nature enthusiasts and professional researchers who want to learn more about the skinks and other reptiles in New Mexico.
Skinks are a fascinating group of lizards found in New Mexico, and it’s important to understand their characteristics, habitat preferences, and behaviors in order to appreciate and conserve them. The Great Plains Skink, Many-Lined Skink, and Mountain Skink are three skink species that can be found in this state, each with its own unique traits and adaptations.
By learning more about these skinks and other reptiles, we can better appreciate the biodiversity and ecological importance of these creatures. Let’s continue to explore and protect the natural habitats of skinks and other wildlife, ensuring that future generations can also enjoy the wonders of these fascinating animals.