Lanza's skink (Chalcides lanzai)

Synonyms: Chalcides montanus lanzai, Chalcides montanus spp. lanzai, Chalcides ocellatus lanzai
French: Seps De Lanza
GenusChalcides (1)
SizeTotal length: up to 21 cm (2)
Weightup to 25.9 g (2)

Lanza’s skink is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Named after the Italian herpetologist Benedetto Lanza (3), Lanza’s skink (Chalcides lanzai) is a poorly-known lizard found at high altitudes in Morocco (1).

Like other skink species, Lanza’s skink has a roughly cylindrical body covered in smooth, overlapping scales (4). Its limbs are relatively short and its body is slender (2), although not as elongated as in some other Chalcides species (5). Relatively little information is available on the colouration and markings of Lanza’s skink, but newborn young have a bright orange tail which gradually fades with age, leaving a pinkish-red colouration on the underside of the tail in the adult. The adult Lanza’s skink has a creamy-yellow belly (2).

In general, Chalcides species tend to have a fairly pointed snout with an enlarged scale at the tip, a possible adaptation for burrowing (5). Like other members of the genus, Lanza’s skink has moveable eyelids, the lower of which has a transparent scale that allows the skink to bask with the eyes shut while retaining vision (5) (6).

Lanza’s skink has sometimes been considered a subspecies of the ocellated skink (Chalcides ocellatus) or the very similar mountain skink (Chalcides montanus) (1) (2). It resembles the mountain skink in appearance and occupies a similar mountainous habitat in Morocco (5).

A high altitude species (2), Lanza’s skink is found at elevations up to about 2,100 metres in a small region of the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco (1) (3).

Lanza’s skink is reported to occur in fields, meadows, cedar forests and damp areas close to streams (1).

Relatively little is known about the biology of Lanza’s skink. Like other skinks, it is likely to be an active predator that feeds on insects and other small arthropods, and it may use chemical and visual signals to communicate (4).

In captivity, Lanza’s skink has been reported to hibernate between November and March or April (2). Courtship behaviour has not been observed in this species (2), but in many other skinks the male becomes aggressive during the breeding season and may perform displays to warn off rivals. During mating, male skinks usually hold the female in a ‘mating grip’ and often bite the female on the neck, limbs or body (4).

Lanza’s skink is viviparous (1) (2), giving birth to live young rather than laying eggs. Captive female Lanza’s skinks have been known to give birth to between five and eight young, from May to July. The newborn Lanza’s skinks measure around seven to eight centimetres in length and weigh only around one gram (2).

Captive Lanza’s skinks have been reported to first breed at four years old, and can live to at least six years of age (2).

Lanza’s skink occupies a restricted area, potentially putting it at higher risk of extinction. In some parts of its range it may be affected by the degradation of its habitat due to overgrazing by livestock, but its habitat as a whole is not believed to be under significant threat and this species is thought to be locally common (1).

Lanza’s skink is reported to occur in two protected areas, at Jbel Tichoukt and Jaaba (1). However, only a small proportion of its habitat is currently protected, and a major expansion of conservation areas has been recommended to properly protect this and other reptile species in Morocco (7).

Find out more about Lanza’s skink:

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  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2011)
  2. Bogaerts, S. (2006) First data on the reproduction of Lanza’s skink, Chalcides lanzai Pasteur, 1967. Podarcis, 7: 9-16.
  3. The Reptile Database (December, 2011)
  4. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Carranza, S., Arnold, E.N., Geniez, P., Roca, J. and Mateo, J.A. (2008) Radiation, multiple dispersal and parallelism in the skinks, Chalcides and Sphenops (Squamata: Scincidae), with comments on Scincus and Scincopus and the age of the Sahara Desert. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 46: 1071-1094.
  6. Ananjeva, N.B., Orlov, N.L., Khalikov, R.G., Darevsky, I.S., Ryabov, S.A. and Barabanov, A.V. (2006) The Reptiles of Northern Eurasia. Pensoft Publishers, Sofia, Bulgaria.
  7. de Pous, P., Beukema, W., Weterings, M., Dümmer, I. and Geniez, P. (2011) Area prioritization and performance evaluation of the conservation area network for the Moroccan herpetofauna: a preliminary assessment. Biodiversity and Conservation, 20: 89-118.