Florida sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi)

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Florida sand skink
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Florida sand skink fact file

Florida sand skink description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyScincidae
GenusNeoseps (1)

The Florida sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi) is a grey to tan-coloured lizard which is highly specialised for an underground lifestyle. Its limbs are greatly reduced, with a single toe remaining on the forefeet and two toes on the hind feet. Grooves on the body provide space for the forelimbs to fold into, helping to streamline the body, and the head is wedge-shaped to further facilitate effective burrowing through loose substrate. These adaptations allow the Florida sand skink to ‘swim’ through sandy soils at depths of five to ten centimetres, using a wave-like motion like that of an eel (2) (3).

The tail of the Florida sand skink is long, comprising half of the skink’s total length (2). This species lacks ear openings and has tiny eyes (2) (3).

Hatchling Florida sand skinks have two wide black bands from the tip of the tail to the snout, but these are reduced or found only between the eye and the snout in the adult (4).

Also known as
sand skink.
Synonyms
Eumeces reynoldsi, Pleistodon reynoldsi.
Size
Total length: 10 - 13cm (2)
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Florida sand skink biology

The Florida sand skink’s diet consists of a variety of hard- and soft-bodied arthropods, which are found below the ground surface. Beetle larvae and termites make up the bulk of its diet, while spiders, larval antlions (Myrmeleontidae species), adult beetles and other invertebrates are also consumed (7). This species is active during the day, with feeding occurring mostly in the morning and evening (8).

The Florida sand skink has one mating period each year, between February and May (9). A single clutch of eggs is produced approximately 55 days after mating, and consists of two to three elongate eggs which are laid in the sand under logs or other cover (4) (9). The eggs hatch from June to July. The young Florida sand skink reaches sexual maturity at one to two years old (4) and individuals can live for at least eight to ten years (9).

The life history traits of the Florida sand skink are typical of other lizards leading an underground existence, with a low frequency of reproduction, small clutch size, late maturity and long lifespan (9).

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Florida sand skink range

The Florida sand skink is restricted to central Florida, in the south-eastern United States, where it occupies an area estimated at less than 2,000 square kilometres (1).

This species occurs only on the sandy peninsular ridges in central Florida, at Lake Wales, Mount Dora and the Winter Haven Ridges (1) (3) (5).

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Florida sand skink habitat

The wave-like form of locomotion used by the Florida sand skink requires well-drained and loose soil or sand with large particle sizes (3) (6). These requirements limit the Florida sand skink to dry uplands with sandy substrates. This species prefers transitional areas between high pine forests and scrub, but is also found in rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides) scrub, turkey oak (Quercus laevis) barrens and sandy areas in high pine forests (3) (7).

Optimum habitat for the Florida sand skink is found where there are open canopies, scattered patchy vegetation and patches of bare sand, as well as a few plant roots. However, it can also be found in areas with dense undergrowth and closed canopies (7).

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Florida sand skink status

The Florida sand skink is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Florida sand skink threats

The Florida sand skink is considered to be under threat due to its restricted range, the severe fragmentation of its remaining subpopulations and a continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat (1). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the Florida sand skink as ‘Threatened’ since 1987, with a review in 2007 recommending the maintenance of this threat level due to the continued degradation and fragmentation of the species’ habitat (2) (6).

The loss and modification of dry upland habitats in central Florida is the primary reason for the decline of the Florida sand skink, with an estimated 60 and 90 percent of the scrub ecosystem having been lost to residential, commercial and agricultural development, primarily for citrus fruit farming (3) (7). With Florida’s human population expected to double between 2005 and 2060, there is likely to be further habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation unless suitable protection can be provided (6).

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Florida sand skink conservation

Some Florida sand skink habitat is under state, federal or private protection in reserves. An expansion of protected dry uplands has been ongoing at Lake Wales Ridge, with considerable success, but there is concern that populations on private lands may be at risk from habitat degradation due to improper management (6).

Due to the shortage of suitable remaining habitat, the restoration of the Florida sand skink’s habitat may be necessary for this species’ survival. Suitable land management is also needed, using controlled fire to create the patchiness in vegetation that this skink prefers. The slow dispersal of the Florida sand skink also means that translocation of individuals may be required (7).

The sand skink falls within the continuing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recovery plan for Florida, which covers the protection of 68 threatened and endangered species and the restoration and maintenance of over 67,000 square kilometres of habitat (7).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

Find out more about the Florida sand skink:

More information on conservation in Florida:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Arthropods
A very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Larvae
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Translocation
When individual living organisms from one area are transferred and released or planted in another area.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1987) Determination of threatened status for two Florida lizards. Federal Register, 52: 42658-42662. Available at:
    http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/federal_register/fr1349.pdf
  3. Florida Natural Areas Inventory: Field Guide to Rare Animals of Florida - Sand skink, Neoseps reynoldsi (August, 2011)
    http://www.fnai.org/fieldguide/pdf/neoseps_reynoldsi.pdf
  4. Telford Jr, S.R. (1959) A study of the sand skink, Neoseps reynoldsi. Copeia, 1959 (2): 100-119.
  5. Richmond, J.Q., Reid, D.T., Ashton, K.G. and Zamudio, K.R. (2009) Delayed genetic effects of habitat fragmentation on the ecologically specialized Florida sand skink (Plestiodon reynoldsi). Conservation Genetics, 10: 1281-1297.
  6. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2007) Bluetail Mole Skink (Eumeces egregius lividus) and Sand Skink (Neoseps reynoldsi). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region, Vero Beach, Florida. Available at:
    http://www.fws.gov/southeast/5yearReviews/5yearreviews/2skinks.pdf
  7. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1999) South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region, Atlanta, Georgia. Available at:
    http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/ListedSpeciesMSRP.html
  8. Andrews, R.M. (1994) Activity and thermal biology of the sand-swimming skink Neoseps reynoldsi: diel and seasonal patterns. Copeia, 1994: 91-99.
  9. Ashton, K.G. (2005) Life history of a fossorial lizard, Neoseps reynoldsi. Journal of Herpetology, 39(3): 389-395.
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Florida sand skink  
Florida sand skink

© Zig Leszczynski / Animals Animals

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