Blue-tailed Mole Skink

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Blue-tailed Mole Skink

Eumeces egregius lividus

Status Threatened
Listed November 6, 1987
Family Scincidae (Skink)
Description Lizard with a long, narrow, cylindrical body; bluish tail in young.
Habitat Sand pine scrub.
Food Insects.
Reproduction Clutch of three to seven eggs.
Threats Agricultural and residential development.
Range Florida

Description

The blue-tailed mole skink, Eumeces egregius lividus, has short, stubby legs and a thin, cylindrical body measuring from 3.6-5.2 in (9-13 cm). The tail, blue in juveniles and pinkish with age, is a little more than half the body length.

Behavior

Little is known of the biology of the blue-tailed mole skink, but it is presumed to be similar to the peninsular mole skink (E. e. onocrepis ). The mole skink forages on the surface or digs into the soil to find insects, feeding mostly on cockroaches, spiders, and crickets. It mates during the winter, and females lay underground clutches of three to seven eggs in the spring. Skinks become sexually mature during the first year.

Habitat

The larger habitat of the blue-tailed mole skink is sand pine scrub communities. Dominant vegetation includes sand pine and rosemary, or longleaf pine and turkey oak associations. Loose sand, vital for burrowing, is the primary habitat requirement. This species is more common in early successional forest stages and may not persist in mature sand pine scrub due to this requirement.

Within scrub areas, skinks occupy only localized pockets of sufficient leaf litter and moisture to provide abundant food and nesting sites. Moisture retained by litter is important for internal heat regulation in this species. Unlike the endangered sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi ), which forages underneath the sandy soil, the mole skink forages mostly on the surface. Therefore, the two skinks occupy different niches and do not compete for food, even though they are occasionally seen together.

Distribution

The blue-tailed mole skink is endemic to central Florida and was probably fairly widespread before the large-scale conversion of its habitat for agriculture (particularly citrus groves). More than 14 species of birds and plants endemic to this region are listed as endangered or threatened as a result of agricultural expansion and residential development, including snakeroot (Eryngium cuneifolium ) and Carter's mustard (Warea carteri ). The blue-tailed mole skink is found in suitable habitat in Polk and Highlands counties. North of Polk County, the blue-tailed skink is replaced by the peninsula mole skink or by hybrids of the two subspecies. The Florida Natural Areas Inventory lists 20 population sites for the blue-tailed skink. In 1965, there were an estimated 50,000 acres (20,234 hectares) of available habitat. Within 20 years, roughly 65% of the skink's habitat had been lost.

Threats

Much of the blue-tailed skink's habitat is privately owned land that is being rapidly converted to citrus groves or re-zoned for housing tracts. In remaining sand pine and long-leaf pine areas, naturally occurring firesnecessary for the habitat's maintenancehave been suppressed. When sand pine scrub is unable to renew itself through fire, encroaching vegetation eventually replaces the scrub. Within protected areas, managed fires may be used to remove much of the successional growth, benefitting the skink and other flora and fauna threatened by fire suppression.

Conservation and Recovery

The main recovery need for the blue-tailed mole skink is the protection and management of habitat to ensure its continued survival. This would entail not only preserving sufficient habitat from development, but ensuring that required habitat adaptations are maintained. The blue-tailed mole skink is found at a few protected sites such as Archbold Biological Station, Lake Kissimmee State Park, Lake Arbuckle, Saddle Blanket Lakes, and Tiger Creek. The State of Florida through the Florida Natural Areas Inventory and private organizations such as the Nature Conservancy are engaged in aggressive campaigns to acquire pine scrub habitat in the central portion of the state.

Contact

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
http://southeast.fws.gov/

References

Christman, S. P. 1970. "Blue-Tailed Mole Skink." In Pritchard, P. C. H., ed., Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida, Vol. III. University Presses of Florida, Gainesville.

Mount, R. H. 1965. "Variation and Systematics of the Scincoid Lizard, Eumeces egregius Baird." Bulletin of the Florida State Museum 9 (5): 183-213.