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The range of the Many-lined Skink is distributed from southern South Dakota and western Nebraska, south through eastern Colorado into New Mexico, and then west into Arizona and Utah. In Wyoming they are a peripheral species inhabiting the shortgrass communities of the prairie life zone in the southeast corner of the state in Goshen and Laramie counties. They are a diurnal and ground dwelling lizard, active from May through September. They lead a secretive life style—spending most of the day hiding under ground litter and any other available cover such as rocks, boards, and cow dung. These skinks are particularly fond of areas containing the debris and clutter associated with abandoned buildings and farmhouses.
The tail of a skink (more so than other lizard species found in Wyoming) is very fragile and is easily broken or detached—a feature used as a method of escape to avoid capture. It has weak points (fracture planes) in the vertebrae which are surrounded by muscular rings and these can be constricted to dislodge the tail and restrict any subsequent blood loss. This process, known as autotomy, is a reflexive condition and is different from the tail loss that may occur (in other species and) resulting from actual physical damage such as when the tail is stressed when pulled (however slight that effort may be). The lost tail will twitch or thrash about, attracting the attention of a predator while allowing the skink to escape. The tail will be regenerated using cartilage rather bone. This tail loss and regeneration does come at a cost: loss of body reserves, a reduction in mobility and speed, and diminished sexual or social interactions involving courtship, territorial defense, and egg production.
It is a medium sized lizard, less than 3 inches long (SVL) with an elongated, tube or cylindrical shaped body, short legs, and a long tail. The body is covered with smooth, non-keeled, rounded and overlapping scales which give the lizard a sleek look. The background is a dark brown with many alternating light and dark longitudinal stripes. The small, foreshortened head appears to attach directly to an elongated chest rather than to a neck. Their long tongue is notched at the tip (like a primitive precursor to the deeply forked tongue of snakes) and is used extensively in chemical sensing. The tail is almost twice as long as the body and gradually tapers toward the end before abruptly terminating to a point. Juveniles have a blue tail.
Mating and courtship begin in early spring and males in breeding condition have a reddish or orange coloration around the lips and lower jaw. A female will lay 3-5 eggs in an excavated nest under rocks or boards, or inside a rotting log. She will remain with the clutch until after hatching. Her maternal role includes: maintaining humidity by covering the eggs to reduce evaporation, and regulating temperature by basking in the sun and then returning to the nest to transfer heat from her body to the eggs via conduction.