Great Plains Skink (Plestiodon obsoletus)
This large skink has smooth scales that are light tan and edged in black. The overall appearance of the black markings may suggest stripes. The belly is white to yellowish. Juveniles look decidedly different than adults and are pitch black, except for white spots on the head and a bright blue tail.
Although superficially this species may resemble other skinks in Arkansas, the scales of its sides are arranged in oblique rows.
As young, this species may be called a Blue-tailed Skink (a term shared amongst several skink species).
This is a species of open grasslands and gently rolling hills. It may prefer areas of loose, sandy soils which allow for burrowing. Junk piles can provide good habitat for this species.
Although diurnal and a basker, this species is somewhat secretive. It is most likely to be found under cover, such as a rock, log, or even a piece of trash.
Breeding occurs in the spring. Females will lay eggs and brood them until hatching.
Insects comprise the bulk of the diet of this species. Prey is searched for actively. Only prey that is easily subdued is taken.
If approached, this species is likely to hide under some kind of cover, such as a rock, log, or piece of debris. It is a larger skink and if captured, it can deliver a pretty powerful bite. Care must be taken in capture 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 is considered rare by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and has been identified as a species of greatest conservation need by the Wildlife Conservation Strategy group. The primary reason for its scarcity in the state is likely due to a lack of suitable habitat. Preservation of natural grassland is a likely conservation measure.