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