Great Plains Skink
Body length: 3 1/2 - 5 1/2"
Diet: Insects, spiders, mollusks, and other lizards
Great Plains skinks are easily recognized by their shiny scales and alert, agile appearance. They prefer moist areas, and occur (but are not common) at Tonto National Monument in shaded areas with tall trees, such as in Cave Creek Canyon along the Upper Cliff Dwelling trail.
This species of skink lays up to 12 eggs in late spring. During the one-to-two month incubation period, the females guard their eggs, a somewhat uncommon behavior for a reptile. Young skinks are jet black at hatching, with a bright blue tail. This color fades as they age, and adults are uniformly a less vivid color, usually greenish-brown to gray.
The skink family is very large and widespread - more than 1,000 known species occur. Skinks are found on all continents except Antarctica.
Did You Know?
Tonto National Monument is home to a crested saguaro. Biologists disagree as to why some saguaros grow in this unusual form. Some speculate that it is a genetic mutation. Others say it is the result of lightning or freeze damage. About one in 150,000 saguaros develop this unusual growth.