Southern Coal Skink (Plestiodon anthracinus pluvialis)


This plumply-built, smooth-scaled skink is bronze to tan in coloration with broad, dark brown lateral stripes that are bordered thinly by white. A faint, lighter middorsal stripe may be present. The belly is plain cream colored. Males may develop orangish cheeks during the breeding season. Juveniles look decidedly different than adults and are nearly uniform black, except for some lighter lip scales and bluish-tinted tail.

This species looks very similar to other skink species found in Arkansas and examination of scales may be required to confirm identification. The Southern Coal Skink has a single postmental scale, whereas other easily confused species have two.

As young, this species may be called a Blue-tailed Skink (a term shared amongst several skink species).


Although several sources indicate that this is a species of humid, wooded hillsides near streams, in Arkansas they seem rather to prefer more arid habitats, such as glades and old rock quarries. They may also be found in and around old trash piles and other similar disturbances.

Habits and Life History

This species seems less conspicuous than other skink species. Although it can be seen basking, it is more likely to be turned up from under a rock, log, or piece of debris.

Overall activity and breeding in particular seems to occur much earlier than in similar skink species. Females lay their eggs by June and will brood them until hatching.

Prey and Hunting Techniques

The diet of this species consists primarily of small insects and spiders. Prey is searched for actively. Only small, easily subdued prey is taken.

Temperament and Defense

If approached, this species will hide under a rock or log. (It seems to be less of a climber than similar species.) If captured, it may try to bite. Care must be taken since the tail is easily detached. The detached pieces will wiggle, providing a distraction to any would-be predator. Although a new tail will be regenerated, a lot of energy is required for this process and a regrown tail will always be suboptimal to the original.


This species currently holds no special status and populations appear secure.

State Distribution and Abundance

This species occurs statewide, except for counties that border the Mississippi River. It is somewhat less conspicuous than other skink species, but is still abundant.


Plestiodon anthracinus (Coal Skink) more below Southern Coal Skink Southern Coal Skink Southern Coal Skink Southern Coal Skink Male Southern Coal Skink Male Southern Coal Skink Male Southern Coal Skink Male Southern Coal Skink Male Southern Coal Skink Male Southern Coal Skink Southern Coal Skink Southern Coal Skink (Juvenile) Southern Coal Skink (Juvenile) Southern Coal Skink (Juvenile) Coal Skink on Log Coal Skink on Log Coal Skink Showing Single Postmental Scale Coal Skink on Log Coal Skink Belly Coal Skink on Log Coal Skink on Log


  • kaptainkory January 03, 2007, at 11:17 AM (Original Contributor)


  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979 (1987). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd ed. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 743 pp.
  • Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed., Expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 616 pp.
  • Trauth, S. E., H. W. Robison, and M. V. Plummer. 2004. Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 421 pp.


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