Sand Skink

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Sand Skink

Neoseps reynoldsi

ListedNovember 6, 1987
FamilyScincidae (Skink)
DescriptionLizard with a long, narrow, cylindrical body; bluish tail in young.
HabitatSand pine scrub.
ReproductionClutch of three to seven eggs.
ThreatsAgricultural and residential development.


The sand skink, Neoseps reynoldsi, is a small, unique lizard adapted to an underground existence. It measures 4-5 in (10.2-12.7 cm) from the snout to the tip of the tail. The tail makes up about half its body length. Coloring is gray to tan. The tiny forelegs have one toe, the stouter hind legs two toes. This skink has a wedge-shaped head and body grooves into which the forelegs can be retracted. These features enable it to "swim" beneath the surface of loose sand by pushing with the rear legs. Its small eyes have transparent windows in the lower lids.


The sand skink, a non-migratory species, spends most of its time underground, burrowing up to 4 in (10.2 cm) into the sand. It feeds on a variety of small arthropods, principally beetle larvae, antlion larvae, termites, and spiders. It is most active during the mating season from March to May. During courtship, the male seizes the female in his jaws and strokes her side with his forelimbs. Copulation, as observed in captivity, lasts about seven minutes. The female deposits two elongated eggs in early summer beneath logs or other cover. She remains with the eggs, coiling around them, to protect or brood them. The incubation period has been estimated to take five weeks. Hatchlings are about 2 in (5.1 cm) in total length. Most specimens probably breed in the second year of life.


The sand skink requires well-drained sands in open glades free of rooted plants. Sand skinks are more abundant in early successional sand pine scrub, before the area is taken over by hardwoods. Sand pine renews itself through periodic fires at intervals of 20 years or more. Dominant vegetation within the habitat includes sand pine and rosemary, or long-leaf pine and turkey oak. Moisture is retained in the sand beneath the surface, typically by a covering of leaf-litter. This moisture is important for maintaining the skink's internal body temperature and provides the conditions necessary for egg incubation.


The sand skink was once found in localized populations throughout the Lake Wales Ridge region of central Florida. It is found in association with the endangered blue-tailed mole skink (Eumeces egregius lividus ) over part of its range. The sand skink occurs in isolated populations in Marion, Orange, Lake, Polk, and Highlands Counties where its habitat remains relatively undisturbed. The Florida Natural Areas Inventory has recorded 31 sand skink populations. However, all of these sites have been reduced to only a portion of their original size. The species also may occur at Lake Arbuckle State Park and Wildlife Management Area in Polk County. The species distribution has become spotty and discontinuous due to habitat fragmentation.


Sand pine scrub and sandhills are suitable for conversion to citrus groves, and nearly 65% of the original habitat of the sand skink has been converted for agriculture or residential subdivisions. Since the freezes of the mid-1980s, citrus growers have moved their operations southward into the skink's range. Public lands offer some degree of protection. It is protected at the Ocala National Forest (Marion County), Lake Louisa State Park (Lake County), Bok Tower Nature Preserve, Tiger Creek Preserve, Saddle Blanket Lakes Preserve, and Lake Arbuckle State Park and Wildlife Management Area (Polk County), Archbold Biological Station (High-lands County), and Wekiwa Springs State Park (Orange County). Controlled fires in pine scrub on public land are used to remove successional plants and renew the habitat.

Conservation and Recovery

The Nature Conservancy is actively involved in protecting pine scrub habitat along the Lake Wales Ridge. The State of Florida and the Florida Natural Areas Inventory are aggressively acquiring scrub habitat in central Florida and have a number of large tracts to the state wildlife refuge system. These actions will go a long way toward stemming habitat loss in the region and may allow endemic species, such as the sand skink, to survive and eventually thrive.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345


Christman, S. P. 1970. "The Possible Evolutionary History of Two Florida Skinks." Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Science 33 (4): 291-293.

Cooper, B. W. 1953. "Notes on the Life History of the Lizard Neoseps reynoldsi Stejneger." Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Science 16 (4): 235-238.

Myers, C.W., and S.R. Telford, Jr. 1965. "Food of Neoseps, the Florida Sand Skink." Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Science 28 (2): 190-194.

Telford, S. R., Jr. 1959. "A Study of the Sand Skink, Neoseps reynoldsi Stejneger." Copeia 1959 (2): 100-119.